Talk2 Media took over the running of AIME 2019 for the first edition in March. CEO Matt Pearce spoke to CMW in Melbourne about the huge effort involved.
The first edition of the AIME meetings show in Melbourne, under new Talk2 Media management, made a Sunday start with site visits for buyers ahead of the education content kick-off the following day.
Chief organiser Matt Pearce commented: “With the introduction of all the educational content, Monday was the best day to do it. We therefore moved the media and hosted buyers site visits to Sunday. The networking was successful and the education we worked on with the PCMA, ICCA and SITE was well received. Events like ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ went down particularly well.”
The show introduced another first with breaks in the morning and afternoon, which were well received, although Pearce admitted the task of getting the hosted buyer mix right – both for quality and geographic locations – had been a challenge in terms of reconciling the meetings that buyers wanted versus the exhibitors’ expectations. “It’s a complex piece,” he acknowledged.
Over 600 hosted buyers took part in more than 5,000 showfloor meetings.
In terms of the enduring validity of the hosted buyer model, Pearce believes the onus is on making sure that the exhibitor gets a return on their investment, “that’s a priority of the organiser,” he said.
“Paying for them to come in focuses the mind on the investment you put into it as an organiser.”
Pearce’s aim is to double the number of hosted buyers, but admitted the need this year was to “walk before we can run”.
Nevertheless, a 50% uplift in buyers was creditable, with 52% of those being new to the show and 62% international compared to approximately 18% international last year.
Pearce said a lack of new hosted buyers had been a complaint from previous years. “Exhibitors complained they had seen them all before. We also took on board complaints about the networking and not enough food”.
In terms of new exhibitors, he said: “There are still a lot we want back. We’re talking to them.” He said many were happy to come through and take a look at the new-look show even if it hadn’t worked for them previously. “They’re taking small steps forwards. Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia were here, for example.”
How did Pearce define a good show?
“The exhibitors need a return on investment and the hosted buyer needs a return on time. They come in, have all these appointments and if they walk away with new venues, new destinations or suppliers then everyone’s won. ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ was a win but you need a series of wins. It’s never just one thing. Not everyone likes the same thing, but generally feedback has been great.”
Show owner Melbourne Convention Bureau’s involvement in the running was minimal this year. “Now and then I would seek council with Karen Bolinger on a couple of things but day to day running has been what they need to know only. Ultimately, they employed us to manage the show,” Pearce noted.
So, what is still to change?
“We’d like to grow the show obviously. We’ve gone out with a lot of promises. People want to see if you can deliver. If we get this right, people will say ‘they know what they’re doing’ and ‘maybe we should spend more’ – we can then grow the show, invest in more hosted buyers and more content.”
Pearce stresses the importance of the show for the region. “There isn’t another large show like this… In terms of scale we have an opportunity to make it even bigger. If we do it right, to create the IMEX of the Asia Pacific region.”