By Brad Foster

It wasn’t perfect but AIME 2019 was definitely better than it has been in previous years.

If Talk2Media & Events can keep a cap on the cost to exhibitors, lift hosted buyer numbers, and entice more people to walk through the doors and engage with industry, then the reimagined AIME event should continue for another good while yet.

Talk2Media says this year’s event saw 50 per cent more hosted buyers than in previous years, with 62 per cent being Australian based.

There were 297 exhibitors in total and “unique visitors” standing at 2524.

Talk2Media said it wasn’t independently auditing visitor numbers so we presume that figure doesn’t include multiples of the people who came in and out of the exhibition hall throughout the course of the two days.

The exhibition footprint did seem small but it looked great. The new stand designs by Decorative Events helped to create a more uniform playing field for all exhibitors. No longer was the space overshadowed by those who could spend the most money on their elaborate stand designs.

Sadly, and as has been the case for years now, the majority of exhibitors were either venue operators or convention bureaux.

This would be okay in say a mining exhibition but quality meetings and events are the sum of so many parts, not of all which are big players who have the marketing dollars to splash about. A small audio visual company or a florist or a provider of black drapes or staging are equally as important to the success of an event as where the event is held.

Somehow getting these companies involved would make this show so much better. But that’s the topic for another discussion…

We are family

The opening Knowledge Program on the Monday had a strong theme of building community which is exactly what Talk2 Media & Events was trying to do with this year’s AIME event.

And you could see that happening. Unlike in previous years there were a limited number of off-site events held. Everything – the exhibition and the social program – were, for all intents and purposes, for everybody to participate in.

In some cases this involved an additional cost for the exhibitors and for those who weren’t exhibiting or participating as hosted buyers and who wanted to attend the social events. This may require some additional thought in the future.

The atrium in the centre of the exhibition space was a great addition that worked well for a number of events including a breakfast for the New Zealand exhibitors, and a lunchtime showcase by the NT exhibitors.

It did help keep the momentum of the show ticking along and retained that sense of “community”.

Whether the same can be said for the on floor seminars remains to be seen. These may have been used to try to entice Melbourne buyers to the show. With back to back appointments few hosted buyers had a chance to catch what appeared to be a great number of excellent topics in this space.

Also a good idea was the decision to hold the morning and afternoon tea breaks in the centre of the exhibition space.

Talk2Media & Events referred to these as “networking breaks” saying: “We really wanted to move away from the concept of morning or afternoon ‘tea’ and specifically did not use those terms, rather referring to them as ‘networking breaks’. Of course, it’s difficult to shift the mindset of people from this. We were intent on providing unusual catering experiences – both as a result of working collaboratively with MCEC to push their standard fare, and providing another discussion points to bring the community together.”

Part of that unusualness was no tea or coffee to speak of. Again, Talk2Media & Events had a response to this: “We were very conscious that there were multiple coffee carts around the venue, so were comfortable that attendees could get their much needed caffeine hits [elsewhere].”

For us the “networking breaks” in their present form, which could only be attended if you had paid for them, was a little less community friendly and more like an exclusive club that only the hip and groovy could attend.

The number of security guards to police all these go and no-go zones must have been an additional expense that previous AIME exhibitions haven’t had to deal with. A rethink here? Or maybe we, the attendees, just have to get used to this new world order.

The best social evening was the Welcome Event on the Monday evening. Created and managed by the Atlantic Group at Peninsula Docklands, there were well over 1000 people at this event but because of the size of the venue there really didn’t seem to be that many.

Attendees could wander around to various food stations, step outside to cool off, or just stand in the one place and wait for drinks and food to be brought to them at regular intervals. Yes – thank God – there was plenty of food and enough service staff to distribute it.

No doubt the majority of people didn’t have to go out for a meal when they left.

The second evening was held at the Showtime Events Centre at South Wharf which is only a five minute walk from the convention centre.

The concept for this was great. Here are some tokens which you can exchange for food and drinks. Except every guest got just five tokens.

Our maths has never been real good, but with a ticket for this event in the vicinity of $150 for those who weren’t hosted buyers or were on an exhibitor package, those tokens equate to being worth $30 each.

We asked Talk2 Media & Events about this who provided the following:

“Showtime proposed them and we thought it a rather fun idea. People could keep them, use them, share them. The budget for Tuesday evening was lower than Monday’s, yet we didn’t want the evening to end if people were still energetic enough and wanted to stay on longer. Two-three meals and two-three drinks seemed like a reasonable offer (plus the space, service, entertainment). There was a degree of generosity as the evening wore on for those who stayed with additional tokens being passed out and around. We haven’t received any complaints that people didn’t get enough to eat or drink, rather that they were happy to be hosted for a second networking opportunity.”

“In terms of the value of the networking events, yes, there is the hard catering and servicing costs – but the real value is the opportunity to be a part of the meeting events industry, mingling and building relationships with key decision makers – and this might be strengthened by attending (and for some, paying for) these events. Is it cheaper to sit down for dinner somewhere? Sure. But you don’t get the exposure to the industry and being part of the whole AIME experience is where the value lies.”

Generally though, we found AIME 2019 to be pretty darn good. We were busy, we reconnected with old friends, and we made new ones. We definitely found a few new stories, and our sales people have been busy following up leads that they made while at AIME.

We see the future… And AIME is there!