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Look Beyond Vegas For United 2008 Success

In the aftermath of the United Fresh show in Chicago, all too much focus has been placed on whether next year’s venue in Las Vegas will be more successful.

We suspect it will be. It is a venue the produce industry hasn’t gone to in recent memory, so you will have that novelty going for the show. It is also closer to the big produce-producing and importing areas in California and Arizona — which means you will probably see a bump in attendance.

The rap against gambling destinations — especially those, such as Las Vegas, that have hotels where the lobby is the casino — is that though registration is often very high because of the appeal of the destination, attendance at workshops, seminars and on the show floor is often low, because people stay up too late and are distracted on the way to meetings and events.

A conventioneer who sits down for a couple hands of blackjack before heading off to the floor is likely to find himself either up or down when the time comes to go and either circumstance provides lots of motivation for staying at the table rather than going to the workshop or the trade show floor.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority goes ballistic when people say things like this. They claim that because Las Vegas is a 24-hour destination, everyone can go to all their business events all day and then engage in all matter of recreation all night.

Of course, this seems to imply that registration and attendance will be good but many of the attendees will be nodding off.

It is also true that many corporations view employee requests to travel to venues such as Vegas skeptically. If an employee says that going to a conference in the downtown of an industrial city is important, he is probably motivated by business. A request to go to Vegas can be motivated by a lot of things. After all, this is a city that promotes itself by proposing that things best kept secret happen here.

This is all rather silly though. Strong shows do not depend on the city to attract exhibitors and attendees. In over 20 years of attending produce industry trade shows as an adult, we have yet to meet the person who loves Anaheim, yet Anaheim is in the PMA rotation and shows there consistently break attendance records.

We once heard of a company that trained its sales people by dropping them off in a strange city with a box of bibles. They took from the salespeople all their money, credit cards, I.D., etc., and made them sell enough bibles to earn Greyhound bus fare home.

One could argue that you should hold a seminar and trade show program in a very undesirable venue for a few years. This would compel you to produce fantastic programming and, otherwise, provide incredible value to attract attendees. Then you could move to a nice venue and, like an athlete who trained with ankle weights, the strong show would really take off.

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