Alain Pallas Europe Congress
Photo Credit: Europe Congress

Kongres Magazine talked to several organizers of boutique trade shows on the nature of their business, as well as on the recent Corona virus and its effect on the business, the prospects, and solutions.

ALAIN PALLAS, Managing Director of Europe Congress.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, from Dutch and French descent Alain moved to the Czech Republic in the year 2000.  After having gained valuable MICE experience in a local DMC, Alain established EC and in 2011 the first MICE B2B workshop was organized. With a track record of 20 events in different destinations, the portfolio currently offers 4 forums annually. Besides a great passion for his work, his clients and team, Alain loves to spend time with his family with 3 children, to travel, cook, watch football, enjoy time with friends and to be active in various sport activities.

Q: What does differ your trade show from the competition?

Besides the many similarities trade shows offer, there are significant features that make Europe Congress events unique and deliver better results. Since the establishment of our shows in 2011, we offer shows with a regional focus. According to our three-step qualification model, we carefully select event buyers seeking new business partners for their upcoming events in the destinations of that region, matching the destinations the suppliers are representing. This results in all event planners at the show to be keen on placing business in the specific region, creating a huge synergy.

Another great USP our shows offer is time effectiveness. With just two days out of the office, you can be back to the office at the start of your Wednesday working day, whilst bringing along valuable new contacts from 35 matchmade meetings, new inspiration from various destinations, inspiring knowledge gained during presentations and having made new friends during the enjoyable evening programs. The third major and highly significant difference is that we assist and steer the meeting selection and the meeting matchmaking prior to the event with the assistance of our smart systems as well as human power. We practically take the entire scheduling out of participants’ hands and assure the highest probability of meetings that lead to new business cooperations. The final difference is our loyalty club, with which we wish to show our gratitude to all of our clients for trusting us, offering fixed discounts as well as complimentary benefits.

There will be a bigger focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Q: How do you market and promote the host destination?

A great feature of our shows with regional aspects is that we’re offering destinations prime stage to profile themselves. The host destination gets promoted alongside all other regional destinations withing the presentation blocks. As the host, you further have the unique opportunity to showcase your destination first hand to the selected key event planners. This happens throughout the entire event program, from arrival at the airport to the return departure, through pre- and post tours, sightseeing, site inspections and during the evening social program. Besides these key values, we offer extensive visibility through a wide range of communications. A boutique approach of all event planners via voice, personalized invitations for participation and also through a wide assortment of media presence. Any of our host destinations will receive from us after the show a detailed document describing all our activities and reach, allowing each to see all core values and increased awareness we have created within our partnership.

Q: What are the conversion statistics for your shows (conversion rate)?

We believe that all independent trade show organizers have to agree that reliable ROI statistics, generally accepted with at least 70% of actual numbers available, can simply not be delivered, mainly due to the confidentiality of these figures. I believe everyone would be keen to be able to present these numbers, yet it is essential for our industry and everyone involved that we remain transparent and present truthful figures. The statistics we’re very happy to communicate and can confirm are 100% accurate, are that on an annual base 81% of all destination and supplier participants return to us. This means that more than 4 out of 5 companies join us every year where another percentage does so on a bi-annual basis. These numbers show the business satisfaction destinations and suppliers gain from their participation at our forums and so these references are the real conversion rate to showcase the positive effect of our services.

MCE Vienna Europe Congress
Photo credit: Toms Svilans

Q: Many fraudulent activities online are trying to trick trade show guests into getting money and ID from them by promising them data or other fake services. How do you tackle the problem of safety that arises with this kind of criminal activity online?

This is an increasing challenge worldwide. It is clear that within the worldwide web there are still too many loops left open and therefore we have to promote prevention over cure. The best advice is always to speak to the organizer of any trade show before supplying any confidential details or making any purchase, just to find out whether, what you believe is a direct and valid channel, is indeed correct. Within our systems, whether data protection or payment security, we work with internationally recognized partners securing these details and payments to the maximum.

Q: To which event in the meetings industry do you look up to and why?

Even though there are many events out there, the Europe Congress team and I have mainly experience visiting the common larger trade shows like IMEX and IBTM. I find it fascinating to see how these two compete and push each other forwards. Even though we believe our one-stop-shop events are more productive when it comes to business growth, the gathering of so many stakeholders in the industry, sharing ideas and knowledge on various levels is very interesting. We also receive a lot of feedback on other industry events, yet we do prefer to focus on our own ever lasting journey to perfection. Organizing events for specialists in the event industry gives us perfect feedback and key information on how to establish further growth.

Our industry is part of the global economy and can only exist in a healthy economy with other healthy industries.

Q: Without a doubt, the current situation with Corona outbreak is one of the biggest challenges this industry has ever encountered  … how are you planning to save your trade show during and after the Corona crisis?

For now, we’re depending on the autorities taking care of our societies in the ways they can do so,  knowing best all variables and factors. We have heard many predictions and possible outcomes, at the moment we simply lack enough information to make any realistic forecast of what will happen when. In the meantime we stay safe at home, update our systems, review and optimize our business processes, continue to plan for future events, all so we can surge after this period with new excitement, assisting our clients in further business growth.

Q: Are you planning to stay the same size or to expand or …?

With economic markets predicting reduced values we have to count with an impact and to be grateful to reach equal numbers in the short term perspective. Sometimes one has to take one step back to make several forwards. We are very confident about the values of our services and therefore expansion remains the target we believe will happen in the longer term.

Europe Congress
Photo credit: Toms Svilans

Q: In your opinion, how will the industry’s character change or develop after the crisis? 

As humans, we have evolved for millenniums to communicate in groups and spend time socially. With globalization we have also learned to travel more, to love different cultures and to find friends all over the globe. We have literally become one world. A world that is coming together in the current challenging times to solve together what needs to be done to get back to where we were. Therefore I believe the industry will remain largely similar in the long run. There will be a bigger focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility, which has to be taken much more seriously for the industry to make developments to secure a healthy environment for the coming generations. In the short term, there will definitely be concessions related to keeping society safe. Many of these recommendations already put in place by the WHO and local authorities. Tech solutions, like video conferencing, can temporarily take over but for most event types, being onsite personally remains essential for the intended outcome event planners seek. Therefore I believe we’ll find ourselves as soon as it is possible back in doing what we all love to do so much: Meeting, socializing and enjoying experiences together.

Q: What steps should be taken (on local, regional, state, political, economy level, etc.) in order to preserve the industry and its employment?

The travel industry as such is hugely significant and essential for many economies around the globe. The business event industry as such is worth about 1 trillion Euros on an annual basis, known to politicians on each level. The first priority was and is of course to saving lives. Our industry is part of the global economy and can only exist in a healthy economy with other healthy industries. Therefore it is essential to trust in those having a bird-eye’s view to lead our economies back to success. On a micro level, we have to do all we can to contribute to that, with great positivism, enthousiasm, and hard work.