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Gorazd Čad at his workshop during Conventa 2020 in Ljubljana, Slovenia

POWER OF BOUTIQUE TRADE SHOWS 2020

Kongres Magazine talked to several boutique trade show organizers about the impacts of COVID-19 on the event business, prospects for the future and viable solutions.

Q: What differentiates your trade show from the competition?

The main differentiating factor is probably a strict regional focus. We invented the so-called “New Europe region” representing fresh, undiscovered parts of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Most of our buyers are also from these parts, and other B2B events find it difficult to attract them as they simply lack an offer, suitable for them. In addition, Conventa has constantly been upgrading its story and today consists of five interconnected platforms that respond to the different needs of our partners. We started developing them in the past years and some of them came to life online. The Conventa 2021 platform consists of:

  • CONVENTA TRADESHOW – The oldest B2B MICE event in New Europe
  • CONVENTA CROSSOVER – Festival of events and experiential marketing
  • CONVENTA TREND BAR – A series of educational events in the cities of New Europe
  • CONVENTA EXPERIENCE ZONE – The place of real congress ideas and creative solutions
  • CONVENTA YOUNG TALENTS – More contacts, more employment contracts – job market

Only a few tradeshows can provide their partners with such a complex solution.

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

Conventa has stayed in Ljubljana for various reasons. One of the main reasons is the solid network of partners who co-organize the event and the geostrategic location of Slovenia, which allows most participants to easily reach Ljubljana. Additionally, we were the first to start promoting the New Europe concept, which connects the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. An integral and key part of the project is also the promotion of the project through Kongres Magazine, which is one of the media in the regional meetings industry with the highest reach. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, we offered all our exhibitor’s free advertising in the Meet Again online marketplace. There are many similar initiatives and activities. We believe that the region is very well placed on the map also thanks to our efforts and initiatives.

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The charm lies in diversity and respect for the needs of key customers and providers

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

We carefully analyse all ROI aspects of the event every year. The most basic and at the same time crucial is the data regarding the number of permanent exhibitors, which does not fall below 98 %. This is probably the most illustrative piece of information on the confidence level. Another important fact is that exhibitors estimate that 16 % of their meetings are successful. On average they have 32 one2one meetings at Conventa. The financial effects of the participation at Conventa could also be calculated from this. In any case, we pay a lot of attention to analysis and we also respond quickly to the changes in the market. As the regional market will be even more important in the future, we will, for example, focus all future attention on these markets. However, we like to point out that Conventa creates many opportunities and this is one of the key aspects of the project.

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 activities online?

All trade show organisers face this problem. The most common form is the sale databases of meeting planners, who do not actually exist, and hotel accommodation offers at extortionate prices. We communicate this loudly and clearly with our partners. We have compiled a blacklist of such systems, which is constantly evolving. We, therefore, believe in clear and honest communication, which can largely prevent such practices, and in educating our partners to not fall prey to such offers.

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

Copy/paste is the worst option that has brought the meetings industry to the brink of burnout. In our opinion, copying is similar to the torments of Sisyphus, who suffered immensely because of this. Clones and copies that think, feel, and speak the same are not part of human nature. The charm lies in diversity and respect for the needs of key customers and providers. We built this chip into the DNA of Conventa to listen to our stakeholders and adapt the project accordingly. Everything is subordinated to this and that is the reason Conventa is such a complex platform that is difficult to copy as we are still running fast and working at high creative speed.

A healthy attitude towards the world, compassion and solidarity are built into the story of Conventa. In this way, we have already overcome the economic crisis together.

Q: Without a doubt, the coronavirus outbreak has been and will be one of the biggest challenges of this industry. How are you planning to save your trade show during and after the coronavirus crisis?

When we planned the first Conventa in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 2009, the response from our colleagues and media was unanimous. They all thought we were brave to embark on such a project and take a plunge into the unknown. Conventa was born in a crisis and grew from a crisis. We are used to crisis management and we could say that we are used to changes in the Conventa team. This too has enabled Conventa’s development to date. A healthy attitude towards the world, compassion and solidarity are built into the story of Conventa. In this way, we have already overcome the economic crisis together. We believe we will succeed this time as well. The situation calls for empathy and solidarity. The Conventa team fulfils the project in a way that doesn’t question our motivation. And the new situation fills us with additional energy. Although it seems impossible, we dug into work with extra drive.

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

This is the key problem of the entire situation. The obsession with growth at all costs is part of the realization, nicely complemented by the struggle for the planet, climate catastrophes, the struggle for democracy and people’s rights, which are part of the slave jargon that has caught up with the entire world. We, the organizers of Conventa, have never been obsessed with growth at any cost. Many neoliberal colleagues laughed at us and encouraged us to change the Conventa business model, which has become synonymous with solidarity and high added value. Certainly, organizing these events did not enrich us financially, but we created a community where we respect one another and perhaps New Europe can become leading congress destinations in Europe also because of that. It’s not all about the money, greed and dishonest marketing. The crisis will punish such events the most.

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

Significantly and if we omit the big words and phrases about the new normal, what awaits us is we an industry that will be 100 % focused on the needs of congress participants and the field of B2B event planners. Their values have changed drastically and Conventa will fully adapt to this. From the point of view of the event itself, there will be more and more hybrid solutions, and we are not new to online conferences either. We have successfully implemented a whole series of Conventa Trend Bars online and have proven that we are very effective in this area as well.

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

Before we destroy the planet completely, we must be aware that sustainable development is a key paradigm for overcoming the crisis. In this context, it is important to convince governments that we also need industries that do not seem strategically fatal at first glance. Therefore, for the first time in history, we connected the Slovenian meetings industry. We were heard and are negotiating further measures with the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. Since the activity is prohibited by law, this above all means the preservation of jobs, as well as the number of other activities that we hope will be successful.

Q: And what role does Conventa play in that?

At the outset, we set up Conventa as a boutique, five-star experience geared towards the New Europe region. In doing so, we have always proceeded from the belief that it is better to build on quality rather than quantity. At its core, Conventa was set up sustainably. We are confident that it will continue to carry out its mission successfully along this way. The story of Conventa Trend Bars is three years old and their main purpose and goal is to build a congress community through education and socializing. This year’s novelty is online versions of Trend Bar events, which have met with an extremely positive response. We have developed a special digital platform where the events take place and thus adapted to the situation. This way, Conventa stays in touch with partners with whom we are looking for ways out of the crisis together. It is important that we socialize and talk about what weighs us down and connects us.

Key Conventa activities during and after the pandemic are focused on:

  • Staying the strongest regional tradeshow of the so-called New Europe 
  • Building a database of contacts, focusing on regional event planners (from nearby markets in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Croatia)
  • Organizing virtual meetings at a time when live meetings are not possible – Conventa Trend Bars
  • Introducing hybrid events – Conventa Crossover
  • Staying in touch with event planners with our e-monthly publications
  • Taking advantage of the Kongres Magazine reach (example of the latest issue: Spring issue)
  • Giving exhibitors the opportunity to present their news on our website – Exhibitors’ News –www.conventa.si