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March 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net9Paul Colstonreports from Ljubljana, in Slovenia, on a growing industry tradeshow making headwayfor South East Europe, Conventa 2011.Conventa comes of ageAshort drive from the Slovenian capitalLjubljana towards the Alps and youcome to the Triglav National Park.The name Triglav translates as three-headedand describes the mountain centred in thepark. It is featured on the national coat ofarms and flag.The 2011 Conventa meetings andincentives trade show for South East Europeattracted a record 139 exhibitors and 650visitors to the Ljubljana Convention andExhibition Centre, 19-20 January. This thirdedition can be seen as a success for the'three-headed' organising triumvirate led bythe Slovenian Convention Bureau withsponsorship from the Slovenian TouristBoard and Ljubljana Tourism.The push to develop Conventa 2011clearly paid off, with the exhibition growing23 per cent on the 2010 edition in terms ofstand space. There was no shell scheme to be seen onthe show floor, however, and only onecustom-build stand. Instead the organiserspulled off a brave eco experiment, by way ofa uniform stand design made out oftraditional apple crates. This simple ideacould have looked cheap, but fruit andflower garlands on the basic wooden cratestructures brought a very green anddemocratic idea to life and provided a goodtalking point for delegates and visitors.Chief Organiser and Director of theSlovenian Convention Bureau, MihaKovacic, told CMWthat the SCB and its 65members had commited early in the 2011show campaign to invest in developingConventa "with the aim of becoming thepre-eminent show in the region for themeetings industry"."We have been hosting large congresseshere for 30 years," Kovacic said, "but nowwe are bringing up the level of service andindustry education to meet the needs ofinternational organisers to a new mark. "We involved the whole supply chain andran a successful hosted buyer programmewith 271 attending."Hosted buyer Jacques-Henry Weil fromLuxembourg seemed impressed with hisfirst visit to the show and to Ljubljana: "The show design is simple and to thepoint. Of all the former Yugoslav republics,Slovenia is the closest to the West bothphysically and psychologically. I wouldconsider this part of the world as a potentialhost destination for our Federation ofEuropean Biochemical, Societies Congress."EFS Sports Elliot Stroud, a hosted buyerfrom the UK, told CMWhe had come toLjubljana to seek out potential sportingvenues in the region for a potentialconference client. "The quality of eventspace and hotels here is outstanding. It isdefinitely a country that has much to offer."Part of the credit for ramping up theConventa game must go to former EIBTMShow Director, Paul Kennedy, who played akey consultancy role in bringing in qualitybuyers and attracting Conventa Academylecturers to deliver some international-leveleducation sessions. Meeting ProfessionalsInternational and IMEX Future LeadersForum supported the show withcontributions to an expanded educationprogramme."Conventa 2011 was the largest evergathering of the international meetingsindustry in this region," Kennedy told CMW."The pre-scheduled appointment systemworked well. One of the strengths of theevent was the level of authentic hospitalitywith what I believe was the best catering ata meetings industry tradeshow anywhere,enhanced further by three consecutiveevening networking events open to thebuyers in town. And again complimentary." Kennedy said the challenge for the 2012event would be to increase the hosted buyerpopulation, improve the hosted buyeradministrative system and upgrade furtherthe familiarisation trip programme. Conventa 2011 also broke new meetingsindustry exhibition ground, with a TV studiobroadcasting live from the centre of theshow floor.Kovacic, speaking at a reception for thebuyers in Ljubljana castle on the firstevening of the show, urged Conventa visitorsto explore "the beautiful unknown" of theregion's meetings and events facilities. The organisers also harnessed supportfrom the Slovenian Minister of the Economy,Darja Radic, who appeared at the officialshow party in the Cankarjev Dom centre toimpress "the importance of inter-regionalpartnerships. Conventa is a greatopportunity to exchange views and dobusiness," she said.If some of the key commercial sponsorsand stakeholders, such as airlines andhotels, can continue to match and supportthe vision of Conventa's organisers, thisshow should run and run.SHOW REVIEWMiha KovacicTrade show first: TV studio on the show floor