By Stephen Lindsley
On a sunny but brisk September 17 that hinted at cooler fall weather to come, the Missouri Meetings & Events PLANit Tech-Know Expo 2012 opened at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. We were quick to discover that the hotel actually comprised two buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge. Most Expo activities took place in the newer of the two hotel towers, on the mezzanine level above the newly renovated lobby, while some of the break-out sessions were located in the sprawling lower-level convention area of the older, historic hotel building just to the southeast. In a nod to the nearby hub of jazz in Kansas City at 18th & Vine, all the meeting rooms were named after Kansas City music legends.
THE LEARNING BEGINS
Web guru Frank Spohr kicked off the afternoon’s educational offerings with his popular Website strategies seminar, followed by trade show veteran Heather Howard’s “Ten Insiders’ Secrets to Hidden Trade Show Costs.” Both sessions were well attended, with lively discussions.
THE FUN BEGINS
Next, the planners gathered at a cocktail reception and tour hosted by the hotel, followed by the opening reception in the Main Ballroom. Stunning floral displays by Trapp and Company adorned the tables, while a dazzling laser light display by Charity Resources danced through the haze. Swank Audiovisuals also added lighting and audio components. But the real star was the food, a tasty selection of small plates presented on a stylish curving buffet table with several levels of selections.
After a brief introduction by show emcee Jillian Richardson, who appeared in a futuristic ensemble, MM&E editor and publisher Joe Clote officially kicked off the Expo with a warm welcome to all in attendance. And then, the mingling and networking began! To that end, the MEET Business Exchange, held at long tables at the rear of the ballroom, facilitated brief productive meetings between planners and suppliers. A little more food, drink, music and mingling, and the evening drew to a close.
DAY TWO BEGINS
The second day of the expo started early, with exhibitors putting the final touches on their booths while a hearty breakfast was served and devoured in anticipation of a full day’s activities. The first educational session series of the morning was the PLANit Tech-Know Workshops, where small groups met with tech experts to learn more about ways of using digital devices, new software and the Internet to grow their businesses.
The morning’s second education session offered three choices: “Meetings & Events 101” with Patti Gaughan, “Plan to Skyrocket Your Productivity” with Tracy Hoth, and “Online Registration: What Needs to Change in 2012” with Mark Hubrich. Each of these seminars had a tech tie-in, as the entire Expo underlined the importance of keeping up with the vast array of new technologies that continue to change the face of the meeting and event industry. To that end, MM&E also tested a new smart phone app that served as a mini Expo program guide, offering minute-by-minute updates and a scheduling function for arranging meetings with other Expo participants. Look for this newly emerging technology to be increasingly commonplace at trade shows in the near future.
THE TRADE SHOW BEGINS
The PLANit Tech-Know show floor opened an hour before lunch, accompanied by a steady flow of prize drawings. Attendees mixed and mingled with exhibitors, always with an eye out for those indispensable promotional items that lure potential customers to the booths. Many exhibitors embraced the high-tech theme as part of their display designs, but there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with representatives from potential meeting facilities and suppliers.
The keynote speaker at lunch was Paige Cahill, presenting “Rev Up Your Events, Relationships, Referrals & Results with Online Marketing Tools, Tips, and Strategies!” Cahill gave a lively and captivating talk to a full room, and the cuisine was every bit as good as the entertainment.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
After a brief break, the Flash Drive Sessions commenced. These were short, 15-minute mini-sessions given by industry experts. For those who had attended their earlier full sessions, the Flash Drive Sessions served as a useful summary. Others learned that a great deal of information can be presented in 15 minutes, so four of these sessions meant a very informative hour.
As the day drew to a close, John Brewster, sales director of the Kansas City Hilton Downtown, expressed his gratitude to Joe Clote and MM&E for choosing his facility, and Joe stepped to the podium once more to thank all the planners, suppliers, speakers and sponsors for another successful Expo.
The incentive for sticking around to hear the closing remarks was the final grand prize giveaway that has become a hallmark of these Expos. The grand prizes included an LED flat-screen TV, a new iPad 2, and a free happy hour with drinks, food and bowling for up to 25 people at K.C.’s Z Strike Lanes. What better way to end two days of education and networking than by sending off a few people with some very big smiles?
A NEW BEGINNING
Don’t forget that the Spring 2013 MM&E Expo is fast approaching. We’ll see you there!
Congratulations to our 2012 Kansas City Regional Expo Planit Tech-Know Exhibitor Award Winners
Hampton Inn & Suites Columbia at the University of Missouri won the PLANt Tech-Know booth award
Harvest Productions won the Editors Choice Award
Contemporary Communications, Inc. won the Planners Choice Award