2006 FALL EXPO REVIEW
By Michael Humphrey
Don’t take our word for it when we tell you that the Missouri Meetings & Events 2006 Kansas City Regional Expo was one swinging event. The Count Basie Ballroom, at the Marriott Kansas City Downtown, was full of people ready to sing the Expo’s praises.
Sticking with the 2006 theme – “Local Focus–Global Impact” – MM&E’s latest edition of education, entertainment and networking seemed to be universally popular.
Attendees, mostly meeting planners, thought so.
“This one gave me more time to see all the booths and exhibitors,” says Melissa Seeligman, assistant to the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “It was a good experience throughout the day.”
Seeligman has been to four Expos in the past. But what about a brand new planner at the Expo?
“The information I’m taking back will change the next convention I plan tremendously,” says Jill Ailshire, of the International Certified Floor Covering Installers Association. “I’ve already called the office and said, ‘Man, I’ve got so much information.’”
But planners were not alone in their praise.
“I really enjoyed this year,” says Heidi Jensen, exhibitor and private dining manager at Pierpont’s Union Station. “I really enjoyed the theme and how it was carried out throughout the entire event. There seemed to be more planners who were actually interested in our services. I think the people we talked to either have already booked a party with us or are planning to book with us in the future.”
First-time exhibitors were also impressed.
“Our expectations were met very nicely,” says Adrianne Ford, retreats and conferencing market manager for SpiritPath at Unity Village. “Given that this was our first time exhibiting at the expo, we consider the day a success. We met a diverse group of people who were very receptive to us. It was an exciting day for us.”
Six months of preparation and planning went into making the event a success. But Missouri Meetings & Events publisher Joe Clote says it was feedback from planners and exhibitors that made the day go so well.
“We’ve been listening and trying new ideas,” Clote said. “I think the combination of those changes and the right venue made the event go particularly well.”
One of the new ideas was to use tabletop displays instead of full-size displays.
“The idea was to create a warmer, more intimate atmosphere,” Clote says. “We thought this would help the planners feel more comfortable as they met with the exhibitors.”
That worked, says Jensen.
“This year the booths were not as tall,” she says, “so you could see more people. The room was more open and I think that helped.”
Clote also made sure that planners, workshop leaders and exhibitors blended together during the luncheon.
“We wanted to make sure that we allowed time for interaction and networking,” Clote says. “I think when you allow people to talk and enjoy some casual time together, that’s when the relationships start to form.”
“I did meet some interesting people here,” says Ailshire. “I feel like I could get help in the future if I needed to follow up on the information I learned.”
Attendees always praise the expertise and openness of the Expo guest speakers and this year was no different.
Attendees had the opportunity to learn the practical side of planning – thanks to presentations by Certified Meeting Planners Patti Gaughan (“Meetings 101”) and Brad Plumb’s “CMP/CMM Designations: Who? Why? And How?”
But they also had the opportunity to address issues that transcend all business, thanks to Cathy Newton’s “Risk It,” Steven Iwersen’s “Keeping Your Focus While the World Changes” and Darla Arni’s “The Energy of Attitude.”
“You’ve got good choices for break-out sessions,” Seeligman says. “They helped me with both my personal life and business. The break-out sessions keep me coming back, like the ‘Risk It’ seminar, (which) has given me momentum to take a few more chances.”
That’s the whole point, says Clote: Creating positive change to reinvigorate the working life of the attendees.
“We said that our goal was to refresh and renew your career this year,” Clote says. “I think we accomplished that by bringing in outstanding seminar leaders.”
But the seminars are not the only place where learning happens. Seeligman says the other reason she keeps coming to the expos is to meet new people.
“When you’re in Jefferson City, you basically meet and see the same people,” she says. “Coming to Kansas City, I meet new people and get new perspectives, because they are mainly from around here. So that’s helpful to me.”
As you walked through the exhibit hall this year, many of the exhibitors capitalized on the theme of a “Global Marketplace” and adorned their booths with European scenery, Asian serenity and Caribbean spontaneity.
The Pierponts/Hereford House booth won the Secretary General’s Award for best overall display, thanks to French elegance and whimsy.
Up, Up & Away won the Editor’s Choice Award for its Jamaican theme, featuring a balloon-likeness of Bob Marley and palm trees completely made of balloons.
The international flair continued throughout the day with exhibitions of European dancing, Brazilian martial arts and a creative lunch served in Chinese take-out boxes.
“The theme is intended to add some fun and festivity to the event,” Clote says. “But that’s not its only purpose. There’s substance behind the theme.”
That substance is this: The world is shrinking for businesspeople and that is affecting the meeting and event industry right now. Are you ready?
Part of being ready, said keynote speaker Larna Anderson Beebe, is knowing how to navigate a world where your business associates come from very distinct cultures. Anderson Beebe should know first hand. She lived most of her life in South Africa before moving to Kansas City just a few years ago.
“We need to be careful what we assume about people and how we treat them according to our assumptions,” said Anderson Beebe. “Because one day we might need something from them. One day we might work for them. And how did we treat them before?”
Anderson Beebe told the group that cultural literacy and tolerance will be two of the most important tools for success, not in the distant future, but now. And an even more important tool? Flexibility.
“May I reserve the right to change my mind?” is a question, Anderson Beebe said, we should get used to asking. “That shows that when you get into a hot debate about something, you are open-minded. You are willing to look at that other point of view.”
And Anderson Beebe says another question to ask, if we are going to be prepared for the future, is “What can I do to increase my knowledge of other cultures?”
A world of prizes
If Las Vegas is a culture unto itself, Debbie McDermott of Aroundtown Tours in Lenexa, Kan., is going to increase her knowledge thanks to the Expo’s Grand Prize. She will explore The Signature at MGM Grand for three nights and four days in a luxurious suite, with airport transportation via limousine. She also won dinner for two at SeaBlue, Flamma’s or Diego’s, two tickets for Cirque du Soleil, two VIP passes to both Studio 54 and Tabu, two 50-minute spa treatments at the GrandSpa and $250 spending cash from Missouri Meetings & Events.
And McDermott wasn’t the only winner. Amtrak provided round trips from Kansas City to Chicago, Albuquerque and St. Louis. AVSC sent a lucky attendee home with a 4GB iPod. MM&E gave away an Adam Foster necklace, and Thousand Hills Resort, Unity School of Christianity and Independence Tourism each gave away hospitality packages worth over $500.
“Any way we can help our planners feel like they’ve had a special day, we want to do it,” says Clote. “It’s gratifying to know that so many people went home this year feeling good about the work we put into this Expo.”
Of course, that’s not the end of it. Keep your eyes peeled for the St. Louis Expo 2007, coming this spring.
(Michael Humphrey is the Contributing Editor from Kansas City, Mo.)
A batting average hovering around .100 won’t inspire a player, the team or fans—but going one-for-four can make everyone feel a whole lot better. Then, as far as showing his value on offense is concerned, the player has twice as much to bring to the table when it comes time to renegotiate his contract.
According to survey results, plenty of people who attended the Missouri Meetings and Events Kansas City Regional Expo on September 12, 2006, got back to the office with more than a host of new ideas. They conducted business. And who in attendance wasn’t in sales of one form or another?
Although even a .225 batting average isn’t very impressive on the diamond, a percentage like that would make many a sales person jump for joy. Veteran sales managers know that scarcely one out of every 10 sales calls ever amounts to anything. So 22.5 percent, the percentage of exhibitors and planners who reported making deals at the expo, would be good enough for the home-run derby in lots of sales jobs.
What’s more, if just about one in four attendees reported that they made deals on the floor, who knows how many business cards changed hands for potential contact in the future?
Neither planners nor exhibitors reported that they just ran into the same old folks. Exhibitors picked up clients and qualified prospects, and vice-versa: Planners were pleased to meet vendors with new or different products and services.
On a scale of 1 to 5— 1 being poor and 5 being excellent—attendees and exhibitors consistently rated items a 4 or higher, from the facility and food, to programs, format and content of sessions. Overall, 85 percent of attendees reported that they heard or learned something new.
Planners rated six speakers for the educational value of their presentations; the average rating was 4.39 out of 5.
Here’s a glance at other survey findings of significance both to planners and exhibitors:
• Exhibitors and planners were satisfied (98.5 percent) with the amount of time they were able to spend with each other at the event.
• Both groups gave particularly high marks (an average rating of 4.43) to the sit-down lunch format.
• Nearly all attendees said they will attend future MM&E events (98 percent).
So, it looks like we’ll see most of you next fall—and in between, don’t forget our Spring EXPO in St. Louis. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to share any other information with us about your experience in Kansas City. Because as pleased as we are with your impressions and input, there’s always room for improvement!