Plan­ning a con­ven­tion, trade show or meet­ing doesn’t have to be painful. In this edi­tion of ­Al­berta Ven­ture’s Meet­ing and Con­ven­tion Plan­ning Guide, we pull back the cur­tain and di­vulge some in­dus­try se­crets to ease your wor­ries

Alberta Venture - - The Briefing -

It takes a lot of work to get peo­ple to show up to an event, and even more to impress them once they ar­rive. But while events com­pete not only with other events but with a smor­gas­bord of at-home en­ter­tain­ment, there’s still one thing event plan­ners can count on: po­ten­tial at­ten­dees care about their busi­nesses. Most en­trepreneurs will pass on the op­por­tu­nity to stay home and watch Net­flix for a good net­work­ing event. No crafts­man will miss the in­dus­try trade show whose wait­ing list he’s been on for three years. The In­ter­net has made the com­fort of our homes more ap­peal­ing to us than ever, but en­trepreneurs and busi­ness­peo­ple alike still yearn to get out­side.

In fact, trade shows and con­ven­tions have fol­lowed in some of the In­ter­net’s foot­steps. Where com­pa­nies could once ap­peal to the vaunted mass mar­ket, now they hunt for niches, hop­ing to be the kings of hy­per-spe­cific cas­tles. (If you want to pro­duce may­on­naise, good luck com­pet­ing with Hell­mann’s. Ar­ti­sanal, lo­cally sourced, dairy-free may­on­naise, how­ever…)

Con­ven­tions and trade shows have fol­lowed suit: The goal isn’t to put on an event that most peo­ple might at­tend – it’s to host a bash that ev­ery­one in the know can’t af­ford to skip. So, just as dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cu­rates ad­ver­tise­ments based on the minu­tiae of your on­line life, when it comes to event plan­ning, know­ing one’s au­di­ence has to be top pri­or­ity. You might not have the re­sources Face­book does, but you can still fig­ure out what your au­di­ence likes. Ac­tu­ally, you have to.

Pam McCarthy, the owner of Cal­gary’s Five Star Events, echoes an­other In­ter­net tru­ism: Con­tent is king. “You have to give peo­ple a rea­son to at­tend,” she says. “‘If you build it they will come’ doesn’t work in in­dus­try trade shows.” In the wed­ding in­dus­try, for ex­am­ple, all the heavy hit­ters at­tend the big­gest trade shows, which are no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult to get into. Some busi­nesses will sit on the wait­ing list for years; many can’t af­ford them at all. So some go rogue and make their own trade shows, fill­ing up the ven­dor booths with ev­ery­one who couldn’t make it into the main con­ven­tion. But what’s the value to the cus­tomer? “They’re more con­cerned with sell­ing value to ven­dors than to ticket hold­ers,” McCarthy says.

Here are some trade tips to help you do the lat­ter, look­ing at ev­ery­thing from cost-cut­ting to value-adding. Event plan­ning is never easy, but we can help make it eas­ier. So, without fur­ther adieu, let’s get to the main event.

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