John Zeltin     Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
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Using Proprietary Events to Enhance Your Industry
Engagement Program

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A proprietary event is scheduled in conjunction with a trade show or industry conference and is open to a select list of prospects and clients that you chose to invite. It can take the form of a breakfast, lunch, reception or dinner with an educational program or just purely social with no formal program.

Planning an event of this kind is time consuming and requires additional funding so why do it?

First, it can leverage your participation at the conference as an exhibitor or sponsor and present the opportunity for more face time with key prospects and clients. Second,  the sales and account teams love these events as it gives them the opportunity to build relationships and in the case of sales speed up the sales cycle and close business.  Finally, it is efficient as your target audience is at the conference and if you donít engage them your competitors will.

A clear set of objectives will determine who you invite to the event and also provide a means to measure results and justify the investment of time and funds.  The objectives may be some or all of the following:

  • Engage key prospects and build relationships which ultimately lead to closed sales.
  • Show important clients how much you appreciate their business and solidify those relationships.
  • Create opportunities for company executives to interact with important clients and prospects.
  • 'Share some important information from your company such as the launch of a new product.

Selecting the right type of event and venue is of prime importance.  Some important considerations are the funding and budget available, providing an opportunity to interact with the attendees, and truly making it a memorable experience for your guests.  A private suite at an athletic event or concert, a reception and dinner at a fine restaurant or a casino night are some of the many options.  If you are not familiar with the location, you should consider use of a Destination Management Company.  These companies know the best venues,  have the local contacts and will help insure the event comes off  without a hitch.

How do you make sure you get the people you want there?  This of course is critical to the success of your event.  If a prospect for new business, you ideally would like a decision maker attending or at least a key influencer.  If a client, you want the day to day contact or an executive from the client company directly involved with your account.  You should go through the sales and account teams to assemble the guest list and if available send them the preconference registration list for reference.

In any case it is advisable to get the invitations out at least six weeks prior to the event if at all possible.  This avoids a last minute scramble and your guests getting booked for other events.  A reminder a week or so before the event with any last minute instructions is also advisable.

With all this, you should be prepared for last minute additions as your sales and account teams become aware of important contacts that are attending the conference and must be added to the guest list.

Following are six best practices to keep in mind which will help make your event a success:

  • Start planning early and avoid last minute fire drills.
  • Identify an executive host early and get the event on their calendar.
  • Circulate attendee lists in advance of the event to the team attending with briefs on each of the guests.
  • If a dinner organize a seating plan and make sure the executive host is seated with prospects who are decision makers.
  • Conduct a team debrief afterwards to get feedback on the event.

Finally, it is a good idea to develop some metrics to measure the success of the event.   Ideally the event contributed to closing a sale and potential revenue could be compared to the cost of the event for an ROI calculation.  If not, other possibilities are a total of the company business represented by the clients in attendance or potential business volume from prospects in attendance.  If none of the above is possible there is always the option of developing a brief questionnaire for the team with a score for each of the questions.

© 2013 by John Zeltin