Monday, July 23, 2012

Conferences and Vendors

While I was tabulating the evaluation sheets from the June 2012 Palatines to America conference in Indianapolis, I came across one that made a comment about the need for more vendors.  I happen to agree that an important part of any conference is the vendors.  I have always enjoyed roaming around the vendors area whenever I attend a conference such as the NGS Conference in Cincinnati this past May.  From the number of people spending time in the vendors area at NGS and at our 2012 conference in Indianapolis, I suspect that many people feel the same way.
While I was in Cincinnati, I took time to speak to a number of the vendors about what makes them more likely to attend a conference as a vendor.  I spoke primarily to vendors that I thought might be good additions to Palams 2013 conference in Albany. The vendors mentioned several factors.

The most obvious factor was attendance.  The larger the attendance, the more likely the vendor will be able to sell enough to make the trip profitable.  Vendors and attendees have a symbiotic relationship.  We want a wide variety of interesting books, supplies and services to be available when we visit the vendors area; they want potential customers for their wares. That should be no surprise. 
Vendors also explained to me that they wanted sufficient time provided in the schedule for attendees to visit the vendors.  At NGS, the meeting rooms were far away from the vendors area, and there was only a half hour block of time between talks.  As a result, people had little time to browse before they needed to head out to the next presentation.  Unless someone chose to skip a presentation in order to browse the exhibit hall, they had at best fifteen minutes to wander among the vendors.

Several software and internet service vendors told me that they liked the opportunity to demonstrate their products during the conference.  NGS provided an area at one side of the exhibit hall for vendor demonstrations.  I attended several, but probably missed several more that I would have enjoyed if I had known they were being given.  The vendors told me that they would have like the demonstrations to be on the schedule, rather than being posted in the hall just before they were to take place.
When planning for our 2013 Albany conference, I am hoping to make the conference attractive to vendors, so that more will be willing to come.  The presentations and the vendors area will be next to one another.  The presentations will be scheduled to allow ample time for visits to the vendors and a room for the vendors to provide demonstrations has been reserved close to the action.  We will put those demonstrations on the printed schedule so attendees can make plans to attend.

We need a healthy growth in our attendance at the 2013 to make it a success. Of course, people usually dont come just to visit the vendors, so we are working on scheduling speakers and topics that will be of interest.  I will address more about that in a later blog.

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