At a June roundtable event, members of the Association of British Professional Conference Organizers agreed that careful thought needs to be taken regarding the balance between conference and exhibition needs. The event was jointly sponsored by the Manchester Central Convention Complex and the InterContinental Hotels Group and took place at at the Crowne Plaza London – The City. Attendees recognized the need for conferences to be focused on knowledge exchange and learning while noting that the accompanying exhibition revenues are often vital to an event’s success.
“It is a battle between content and consumerism that has to start with communication and a thorough understanding of the audience,” says Therese Dolan, joint chair of ABPCO, adding that “The key issue is to ensure value for all. Content is usually the driver for delegate attendance, but exhibitors need to see footfall and a return on their investment. Association conferences are often accompanied by an exhibition because it adds value to the attendees, whilst bringing in revenues that benefit the association as a whole and sometimes the delegates themselves through reduced conference fees.”
The organization’s roundtable events offer a forum for members to gather and share complex ideas and challenges in a safe and private environment. A variety of in-house Professional Conference Organizers attended, seeking to make the most of their conferences and exhibitions.
“The event was a real success, generating lots of interesting discussion,” says Shaun Hinds, CEO at Manchester Central who chaired the discussion. “As a venue that is privileged to host many of the U.K.’s leading association conferences, it provided us with invaluable insights on how we can assist organizers to grow and deliver successful congresses year on year.”
Several points were discussed and agreed upon at the event. The members agreed that exhibitions and their revenues need to be seen as a key part of an association’s business plan and revenue. They also committed to greater facilitation of introductions between attendees and exhibitors by organizers and using language that reflects the importance of exhibitors as currently partners or sponsors are perceived to have more value.
“Ultimately it is up to the organizers of a conference to facilitate the success of both conference and exhibition,” Dolan explains. “This roundtable event, like so many others, covered a huge amount of content in a short space of time and offered valuable learning for all in attendance. It was clear though that the most important part of the whole process was the need for communities to gather and communicate. Which, truth be told, is the key element to every successful event.”
ABPCO is the U.K.’s leading organization for professional conference and event organizers, industry associates and those studying for, or seeking a career in the conference and meetings industry. For more info, visit abpco.org.