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Hosted Buyers44 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 65UBM's International Confex show in London has started to move along the hosted buyer route, with around 250 buyers being hosted in London for the 2011 edition.Show Director Jonny Sullens is keen to develop the programme and acknowledges that "IMEX and EIBTM have set the standard". It is a standard, he says, that exhibitors, particularly international destinations/DMCs and hotel groups, now demand.One key advantage of an HB programme, according to Sullens, is that "it offers both the organiser and exhibitor a transparent ROI, often before the show has actually started".His only concern with the model is that in some territories or markets exhibitors can miss out on relevant buyers because those buyers haven't either opted into the programme or booked a meeting with that particular exhibitor. "The art of 'working an aisle'," says Sullens, "gets lost, as does the opportunity for that exhibitor to meet additional buyers over and above their set appointments". His philosophy is to give exhibitors what they want: "And that is pre-booked meetings with qualified buyers," he says. "We also need to bear in mind that not all Confex visitors need or want overnight accommodation and travel (but those that do will of course be hosted in this way), so we need to look at other ways to reward our visitors for pre-booking meetings. We want to do this to enhance their experience in and around Confex and that could be through hospitality, education, business intelligence, networking opportunities or corporate gifts. This part of Confex will be run similarly to a loyalty programme with visitors able to trade up their experience by booking meetings with exhibitors."Sullens adds that, when Confex ran its focus groups post 2011 show, "it was clear that the visitors, too, like the opportunity to make the best use of their time on the showfloor by pre-booking appointments. This ensures that they can see who they want, when they want and do not spend time waiting for the required person to free up or have to talk to someone less suitable. "Having seen the work that TFI did with the Discovery Programme for what was then Visit London, we are going to work with them to deliver the International Confex 2012 programme."Trading upmanage to get onto hosted buyer programmes. I believe this is simply down to organisers and destinations believing they know what to do without employing specialists." Such a tactic, Kennedy warns, can be "cheaper up front but perversely more expensive in the long run". At Conventa, buyers not recruited through a professional recruiter are required to pay a registration fee, "designed," says Kennedy, "to ensure the well known freeloading brigade who like to drink and stuff themselves with food don't attend." "The hosted buyer is a future client not a commodity," he adds, saying that in the same way that the professional credentials of hosted buyers should be screened and a reasonable balance struck between the number of appointments and roaming time, the supply side must also step up to the plate. "Sitting on your backside and paying lip service to the buyer who arrives for the appointment is unprofessional and simply rude. It is very common, however. Some exhibitors have so many desks they make it almost impossible to get onto a stand," says Kennedy. Gripes from buyers include being herded around like cattle, and approaches more akin to selling a tourist product rather than a business solution. "Too many exhibitors talk about space, numbers and rates and fail to listen to the buyers' needs and the actual objectives of their events," Kennedy says, but stresses that if these programmes are managed properly a highly effective face-to-face business development environment is created. "The ROI from hosted buyer expenditure can be measured precisely," he adds, but warns it involves "complex work" with no room for an amateur approach. Below: Now the hotel sector supplies over half the hosted buyers to shows like IMEXOf hosted buyers will place future orders as a direct result of the showEIBTM hosTEd BuyEr prograMME By NuMBErs89%

Hosted BuyersISSUE 65 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 45Who gets to be a hosted buyer on the EIBTM programme?The programme is made up of associations, corporates, destination management companies (DMC), event management companies, incentive houses, agencies, independent meeting planners, PCO's and venue finding agencies all with budgets of between US$250,000 and $10m-plus. There were 3,678 hosted buyers at the show last year.How do you attract hosted buyers?We have a targeted campaign to bring in buyers, many of which are corporates, and then we have group co-ordinators which form the majority of our buyers. These co-ordinators, such as hotel chains, DMCs and market representation companies, put together groups of 10-350 people - their essential business contacts. We also have a group co-ordinator in the UK who specialises in association buyers. How do you measure the quality?Measuring the quality of a buyer is more of a picture than a defined barrier they have to get over. We measure them by seniority, purchasing power, by how many events they organise and what sector they are interested in. An agency we would expect to have a number of events on its books varying in size; corporates tend to organise a smaller number of events of medium sized proportions and associations we would expect would organise one or two yearly events for significantly larger numbers of delegates (1,000-plus).Are many applications declined? Usually nine per cent. North American buyers tend to have a high reject rate as applicants tend to organise mostly local events.How do you match buyers to exhibitors?We operate a ratio of one exhibitor to one buyer. Our repeat rate each year is around 50 per cent, to ensure that exhibitors get to see different people.How do the appointments work?It is hosted buyer led. So once a buyer is accepted they can go onto the website and view exhibitors and select an interest in meeting. Our system then uses algarithms to offer buyers their meeting schedule. Hosted buyer appointments are the cornerstone of the show, without which the show would fall over.How long do hosted buyers typically spend at the show?We operate a rotation system, taking into consideration that many people can't justify a whole week out of the office. Between 75 and 80 per cent of our hosted buyers will be at the show for two days, the remainder from further afield would spend two or three nights.Is there a minimum number of appointments for hosted buyers?Hosted buyers are required to attend seven appointments each day at the show, a destination presentation from a destination of their choice and an education seminar. Are there penalties for buyers that don't attend scheduled appointments?We have a no-show policy that means that buyers are financially penalised if they don't show up, because we are running a business at the end of the day. The perfect host for 20 yEarS varIoUS EvEnt organISErS havE IMplEMEntEd vErSIonS of thE hoStEd bUyEr MatCh-MakIng prograMME. rEEd travEl ExhIbItIonS' hb prograMME ManagEr JUnE ClarkE SharES SoME SECrEtS. Vikki Carley aSkS thE qUEStIonSbelow: Painting the full hosted buyer picture, RTE's june Clarke