Reed Exhibitions came in for some flack on some changes at this year’s AIME exhibition, however, with seller numbers down many reported strong business opportunities at the 2015 outing.
The official figures for AIME 2015 in Melbourne are in, with Reed Exhibitions reporting a 13 per cent drop in exhibitors to 617, a steady number of hosted buyers at 488 in comparison to 2014, and consistent visitor numbers of 2574 and a total of 4776 visits over the two days – a 5 per cent growth.
With the drop in exhibitors the ratio of sellers to hosted buyers increase by 16.17, and 40 per cent of hosted buyers were new to the show.
Says Reed Exhibitions’ Axelle Mabille, the higher buyer ratio and the “new” buyer percentage represented added value for exhibitors.
“So far, the feedback from our community online has been very supportive of our changes,” Ms Mabille said.
“Visitors complimented the new show floor layout.”
One major change was that there was no traditional welcome reception on the night prior to opening of the show which was a request by the owners of AIME, the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB).
MCB CEO, Karen Bolinger, said the move to the dinner format on the final night from the welcome reception on the night prior to the start of the exhibition was made following feedback from hosted buyers.
“The feedback we received from the hosted buyers is that a lot of them were attending [the welcome reception] and weren’t networked or knew a lot of people. So we took that onboard and thought that maybe we should have it at the end of the show when most of the hosted buyers are staying in town anyway, and when they have established and developed some relationships from their time at the exhibition.”
Some exhibitors, however, were less than happy with the change of format, partly due to the fact that they had to pay more than $150pp to attend the event.
Ms Bolinger said with 850 attendees at the dinner they felt, at this stage, that it had worked well.
Additional feedback from buyers following the 2014 event in which buyers requested more spaces to sit down during the exhibition resulted in the creation in 2015 of a “Community Hub”.
The Hub included four key areas to ensure, according to Reed, that attendees found what they needed in terms of business, education, inspiration and networking.
Within this area business coaching sessions were held on various topics for professional and personal development to support all attendees doing business on the show floor, with a total of 24 group coaching sessions conducted. In parallel to these, one on one coaching sessions were conducted for attendees to discuss topics around marketing, sales, strategic planning, management and leadership.
Also on offer were silent educational seminars where attendees could relax and listen to influential speakers discuss trending topics of the industry. Other offers were demonstrations on the latest trends of events theming and decoration, and spaces for relaxation and networking.
MCB CEO Karen Bolinger said despite some trepidation of moving its stand location feedback from partners to date had been very good.
“The way we operate with AIME or any tradeshows we attend is that we do a lot of work prior to the show opening, and that’s what we’ve found gives us really good results. It’s not just about the appointments you have on your stand at the actual event.”
The Northern Territory Convention Bureau’s Nicole Jervis said NT participants were not keen on the change of format for the AIME program and the limited notification time.
“We had a conflicting client event which we have been hosting for years and booked nine months prior. We would never intentionally aim to affect the experience or requirement of the buyers. We didn’t favour a paid gala dinner at the conclusion as all of our exhibitors are in no condition to kick up their heels after a two day tradeshow – and they had already booked their travel and accommodation months before.
“The welcome reception gave a fantastic opportunity to meet intended buyers and form relationships outside of the stand so that when they visited over the next couple of days, you are already old friends and relaxed.
“The NT definitely won’t be exhibiting in the same format for AIME 2016. Our trade stand has come to the end of its show life and is well and truly depreciated, which provides us with the perfect opportunity to analyse our presence for all upcoming trade events.
“The quality of buyers can be really hit and miss. Ultimately bureaux want the show to be equally successful for the buyers as well as the sellers. The NT only has interest in meeting with buyers who have vested interest in our destination and unfortunately the system didn’t allow this to occur. The traffic of the trade event was really quiet on the Wednesday – you might have seen tumbleweed rolling down our walkway – which is a far-cry from what our regions are like.
“As always we pushed to make some great contacts and potential leads; most importantly it is great to catch up with industry colleagues in one place. Our event at Pei Modern was wonderful, the company lovely and the food was divine.”
Business Events Tasmania (BET) experienced some problems during the planning stages of the event, including poor communication by the event organisers and difficulties with the online diary system, said Business Events Tasmania’s Meredith Farrer.
“The lack of the bell during the show was also particularly frustrating. Despite this, we felt that the quality of leads was high, offering great potential future business for our organisation,” she said.
“We felt that the new format lacked opportunities for exhibitors to network with buyers, and our preference would be for a return to having the welcome event on the Monday night.
“BET received new leads and good contacts, and yes we will be returning in 2016 – hopeful that feedback from the 2015 event is considered.”
Hosted buyer Amanda Bain from the Australian Glass & Glazing Association said the majority of exhibitors she had booked appointments with had obviously done their homework beforehand and researched her association and her LinkedIn profile.
“This meant the 15 minutes could be spent discussing my future requirements rather than informing them about what it was we did, and I found this a great use of the time for both parties,” she said.
“I didn’t feel the same atmosphere on the trade floor as last year. There seemed to be less people and exhibitors so perhaps this contributed to that lack of buzz.
“I think moving the Saxton Showcase to the end of the day was not a good idea. Being a hosted buyer is quite exhausting. You are on your feet all day and talking to lots of different people with very little time for breaks. To then be expected to focus your attention for two hours on this event was too much. We just want to relax, socialise and have a glass of wine at the end of a very busy day!
“I know a lot of buyers didn’t attend the networking drinks either because they had already accepted invitations to dinners and cocktail parties hosted by the trade exhibitors. The welcome event on the Monday night should be reinstated and the Saxton Showcase moved back to the morning.
“As for whether I will return next year, the answer is yes but it will be as a visitor so I can participate in the knowledge sessions. The structure of the hosted buyer program does not allow any time to attend any of these sessions which is a shame because the content looked very good. I plan two years in advance for my conference so meeting with trade exhibitors every other year works best for me as well.”
Speak to me
This year, the Saxton Speakers Bureau celebrated its 50th anniversary with the Australia Speaks event.
More than 1300 people attended, with mixed reviews. And the fact that it was rescheduled to take place on Tuesday evening, instead of the usual early morning session, was a particular point of contention.
Compared to previous years, the event doubled in size (with 22 speakers) and in length – it lasted more than three hours and ran well over time, meaning many were late arriving at the Movers and Shakers party afterwards.
Nevertheless, the slew of speakers entertained – some more than others – with a few famous faces in the mix including Mike Munro as master of ceremonies, the legendary Ita Buttrose, sexy business man Mark Bouris, and sports stars Layne Beachley and Cathy Freeman.
Stand-out performances were given by those who had truly inspirational stories to share with the audience.