It's Show Time

After +10 years working for a blue-chip company in the financial services sector I am used to attending the big trade shows however now that I am a freelancer I need to be more selective about which shows I attend. Time out of the office means time away from being able to work, but research needs to be done, business relationships need to be nurtured and new contacts made.

I had seen The Meetings Show advertised for a while, but after attending a trade show earlier in the year I was in two minds whether or not to attend. In much in the same way as I need to show our delegates the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor when planning my events, now that I am self-employed I really need to be able to justify my attendance at a show, both in terms of expense and time.

Then I was invited to attend as a hosted buyer by Gill and Alan at GT Associates. After careful consideration, as it was two days out of the office and a hefty fine if I cancelled, I accepted their offer as I could see some free slots coming up in my July work diary. I have known Gill for many years from my previous corporate life and this would not only provide me with a great opportunity to see what’s new but also to grow my working relationship with Gill and Alan.

Do you know what? I am so glad I did!

Being a hosted buyer wasn’t without its commitments – a minimum of 16 appointments, functions, venue showarounds etc – but the benefits were numerous and I think I had one of the best shows that I have been to in many a while.

GT Associates planned everything perfectly – even the weather for our open topped bus transfer to our hotel and the dinner engagement. Their DMC representatives were wonderful co-hosts as were GT Associates: willing to talk about their destinations but no hard sell, joining in with the activities and making everyone feel part of the same group, not buyer and supplier at all.

When you are freelancing you don’t have the expense account to send you on lots of training courses or the time to accept all educational invites so I selected my appointments based on both venues and destinations and new technology. I advocate audience engagement and steering speakers away from death by powerpoint so testing out the new gizmos and how they could benefit my clients was so valuable.

Over the years I have managed many an overseas incentive programme in a wide variety of destinations so it was great to be able to go and see what these fantastic destinations now had to offer as the world, and tastes, change so rapidly.

Yes some appointments didn’t quite hit the spot but most were absolute gems!

And what of the other hosted-buyers? Well we came from all walks – the freelancers, the agencies, the venue finders. The networking opportunities were plenty and were in a format conducive to ask advice and bounce ideas around – I received recommendations for a venue find I have been struggling with and who would have envisaged an informative discussion about event insurance at 11.30pm? To be honest we were a bit shocked, and while it was a very useful conversation the timing could have been better!

Overall it was a fantastic use of my time, I had hugely informative conversations, learnt so much and met some great contacts. If you are a freelancer and are invited to be a hosted buyer to a show in which you are genuinely interested in attending why not give it a whirl?

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