Uncertain economic conditions – and corporate travel cutbacks resulting from those restrictions – are no doubt partly responsible for the downturn in attendance numbers at this year’s Motivation Show, held September 23-25 in Chicago. The final numbers aren’t in yet, but even though advance registration was up for this year’s show, actual on-site attendance fell short of expectations, according to show management.
“There’s no doubt that the current economic news and travel restrictions hurt our attendance numbers,” says Pete Erickson, Managing Director of The Motivation Show. “I know things might not be going as well as they could be when exhibitors ask me how things are going before I get a chance to ask them.”
Conversely, attendance at the show’s educational component, “Executive Leadership Conference: Strategies to Motivate, Empower, and Reward,” was up by more than 16% over last year. This reinforces Erickson’s point that, “During times of economic uncertainty, we need to make the case that employee engagement is more important than ever when it comes to in connecting customer satisfaction with improved financial results – and you can’t effectively engage employees without rewards and recognition.” He adds that that this will be a major theme at the 2009 Motivation Show.
Ed Rivera, Senior Director of National Product Sales for Rymax Marketing Services, agrees that economic conditions likely had an affect on attendance at the Show. “Many companies that attend the Motivation Show also attend other shows that are pertinent to their business,” he says. “Many probably had to pick and choose shows based on which have the most impact on their business, and had to pass on those with less of an impact. However, the Motivation Show is still a fine production, and for Rymax, enough quality customers and decision-makers attended to make it worthwhile.”
Norma Jean Knollenberg, CEO of Top Brands, agrees that “without question, traffic was down.” But, she adds, “The quality of attendees was good. We were able to have quality time with our important customers and brought home some excellent prospect inquiries. Of course, the ROI from any premium show comes after we get back and respond to the leads and inquiries. We always set specific goals when exhibiting at a show, and we exceeded most of those goals at The Motivation Show.”
Tony Daniels, Regional Sales Manager for Vcall, an online communications company, says his firm wanted to get in front of HR, hotel and event planning decision-makers, and from his point of view that objective was achieved. “We’re a first time exhibitor, so we didn’t have a lot of goals going in,” Daniels says, “but we were just blown away by the quality of the attendees, and it gave us the perfect opportunity to talk about the value of our product. We got in the neighborhood of 200-300 leads, we’ve already submitted five proposals and we’re in conversation with probably another 20 organizations we met at the Show.”
Attendees were also generally positive about their experience at the show. Scott Stearns, Assistant Vice President with Costco, says he was looking to build good working relationships and find products for several Costco programs. “It’s a huge advantage for me to be here,” he notes, “because it keeps me ahead of trends, and I can meet with a large group of potential vendors in one place at one time.”
Peggy Riley, a Travel Consultant with Dolphin Vacations, was at the show to look for unique room and bon voyage gifts. One of the trips she’s working on is a culinary arts cruise for 150 people, and she strolled the show floor looking for embroidered aprons, engraved corkscrews and other fun items for the event. “The information I get and the contacts I make at The Motivation Show make us unique and help me bring more value to our clients,” she says. “I now have the connections to get things done, and I’ve gotten many new creative ideas.”
Show management is listening carefully to comments, both positive and negative, from exhibitors and attendees, figuring out how to apply lessons learned from this year’s show to their plans for next year – and those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
“I think the show owners have wracked their brains trying to come up with ideas to increase attendance and differentiate The Motivation Show from the competition,” says Rymax’s Ed Rivera. “This year’s seminars were a huge success, and the sponsored parties were also a terrific way to meet and greet accounts and potential partners.” Rivera also feels the show needs to offer more value and get more of the end-user community involved. “That will be the biggest challenge,” he says.
“Show management did everything it could to promote the show, as evidenced by the increase in pre-registration, but some things are just out of their control,” adds Norma Jean Knollenberg. “I do know that [show management] is looking at providing more ‘show floor’ time next year for those attending the education sessions. I think changes like that will enhance the value of the show for everybody.”
The show will also continue to promote the use of its MotivationConnect365 social networking tool as a way to maintain the motivation community throughout the year, rather than for just the three days of the show. “MotivationConnect365 will continue to send information each week throughout the year to our community of show attendees,” Pete Erickson says. “Attendees and exhibitors can both make use of the social network as a planning tool, so that when they get to next year’s Show the whole sales process has been accelerated and they’re ready to do business.”
Next year’s Motivation Show will be held September 29-October 1, 2009, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. For more information, go to: http://www.motivationshow.com