Case Study – Increase Attendance and Exhibit Sales during the GSA Excessive Conference Spending Scrutiny

The Worldwide Education Symposium & Expo 2012 (WW12)

The Department of Defense (DoD) holds The Worldwide Education Symposium & Expo 2012 (WW12) once every three years. The conference attracts over 2,000 attendees including military, civilian, and contract personnel as well as academic and industry partners. In 2009, the organizing committee selected Las Vegas, Nevada as its next conference location. Through the planning phase, controversy hit the meeting planning industry. Investigations of government conferences such as the 2010 General Services Administration Employee Conference revealed excessive spending. With increased attention on and uncertainty for government conferences, WW12 still had to attract attendees, exhibitors and sponsors while adhering to changing expectations and requirements set forth by Congress and agencies.

The Challenge: Increase Attendance and Exhibit Sales 
during the GSA Excessive Conference Spending Scrutiny

Since 1994, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) coordinated The Worldwide Education Symposium, which hosted sessions that support recruitment, readiness and retention in our Armed Forces. Under the threat of budget cuts, DANTES contracted Events by Design (EBD) for the conference management under a zero-cost contracting vehicle.

EBD would be solely responsible for developing the pricing, marketing, selling exhibitor space and sponsorships, registration and production. Since all the revenue generated would be applied to the conference, it was imperative that EBD maximize its efforts to attract as many attendees, exhibitors and sponsors as possible.

The Solution: Events by Design (EBD) Provided a Comprehensive Set of Conference Management Solutions to Generate Revenue that Paid for WW12

EBD’s services featured marketing, registration, speaker management, exhibitor/sponsor sales and event production.

Leveraging Integrated Marketing

Through an integrated marketing effort, Events by Design increased attendee registrations, exhibitor sales and sponsorship revenue. Each market had a dedicated strategy that involved direct mail, email, telemarketing, emedia and social media tactics. List acquisition and competitive research resulted in a more robust database of prospects.

Telemarketing & CRM

Events by Design used telemarketers to call all prospects for exhibitors and sponsors. Customer relationship management (CRM) software was built to track leads, manage contracts, issue invoices/receipts, and collect information needed for decorator and booth management. The CRM hosted a series of customizable reports which provided essential information to DANTES, vendors and EBD.

Online Technology to Streamline Processes

WW12’s website provided a customized experience for the conference attendee. After creating a secure account online via the WW12 website, the user could identify him/herself as an attendee, speaker, exhibitor, sponsor or a combination of profiles.

Speakers submitted online applications in response to a call for papers. DANTES then could approve and schedule selected speakers online. Since the information was captured in a database, DANTES saved time by not having to redo the data entry and could provide feedback to speakers in real-time. When prompted, the information would automatically be published and updated on the website’s session schedule with speaker/panelist name and bio. Information was easily extracted for conference programs and scheduling purposes.

Exhibitors applied for exhibit space online as well as had a real-time diagram view of booths that were available for selection. As soon as booths were approved, the exhibitor could further manage information that was needed for their booth signage, directory descriptions and invoices/payments. An online shopping cart allowed for credit card transactions as well as notifications that a check will be sent. All payments posted to the exhibitor’s account giving them real-time status updates.

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