Best of 2010: 10 Successful Event Makeovers

Tricky times call for rethinking existing formats. These reimagined events boosted results by trying new marketing plans, locations, and formulas.

December 6, 2010, 9:00 AM EST

IDS 10

Photo: Gary Beechey for BizBash

IDS 10 The Interior Design Show, presented by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., returned to its original home at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre after several years at the Direct Energy Centre. “It allows us to be part of the city again,” said show creator Shauna Levy, who credits the move with attracting greater numbers (attendance increased from 45,000 to 48,000) and a more astute audience. “We seemed to attract a more sophisticated, urban, design-savvy visitor; media coverage was up; and our exhibitor re-sign rate was higher that it’s been for many years,” said Levy, who leveraged the show to launch the inaugural Toronto International Design Festival. Presented by Swiss watchmaker Rado and Audi, the citywide festival ran for four days, with 20 events taking place in venues like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Design Exchange.

The Clios
After Richard Beckman’s new company, E5 Media—now Prometheus Global Media—took ownership of the Clio Awards from the Nielsen Company, the former president of Condé Nast Media Group and executive producer of Fashion Rocks brought the advertising industry event back to New York and revamped the 51-year-old ceremony and conference. Consolidated into a two-day convention with two 75-minute award presentations, the 2010 Clio Awards saw a 50 percent increase in attendance, attracted big-name speakers—including Grammy-winning singer Pharrell Williams and Penny Baldwin, Yahoo’s senior vice president of integrated marketing and brand management—and built its profile in the media.

Los Angeles Marathon After a move from its traditional timing in March to May in 2009, the marathon reversed course to March 21. A new route, dubbed “Stadium to Sea,” was intended to show off the best of the city’s features—to locals as well as participants from around the world—on a sightseeing tour from Dodger Stadium through downtown, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills and on to the Veterans Administration grounds and the finish line in Santa Monica. The marathon drew a capacity crowd of 25,000 registrants—the first time in the race’s 25-year history that it sold out and a 45 percent increase over 2009.

Twice a year, fashion industry players descend on Las Vegas for Advanstar’s Magic Marketplace family of shows. For the February 2010 run, the program launched dual campuses at the Las Vegas and the Mandalay Bay convention centers. Organizers billed it as the most significant format change in the show’s 77-year history, meant to add 50 percent more space and a more efficient organization for attendees and exhibitors. A new layout merchandised exhibitors into three distinct neighborhoods for easy navigation. The Trend Concourse by Fashion Snoops debuted in the Central Hall, with high-fashion mannequins, flat-screens, and runway footage. Magic also launched a new footwear show, FN Platform, with more than 500 brands over 60,000 square feet. Feedback from attendees and exhibitors was positive, and nonstop shuttle service between venues allowed for a smooth flow.

Torchmark Corporation’s Combined Incentive and Award Trip This Fortune 500 company invited employees from four of its five insurance companies for an incentive trip to the Fontainebleau from July 7 to 10. Unlike last year’s incentive cruise, on which each company held separate award ceremonies, this time around Torchmark assistant vice president Donita Jacobs paired the companies into two groups to recognize the top producers and managers. “Torchmark is trying to bring all the companies under our umbrella together, so we thought having them exposed to one another would help in the process,” said Jacobs, who coordinated the four-day trip. Blooming Designs and Events designed the Rat Pack-themed events, which used the same ballroom decor for ceremonies on consecutive nights.

Orlando Shakespeare Theater Opening Gala Sometimes a simple twist can make a big difference. The Orlando Shakespeare Theater gained nearly 40 percent more revenue—netting more than $110,000—from its 10th season opening gala on September 12 by selling more tickets and expanding its auction. The theater company held its fund-raiser on a Sunday instead of Saturday, which helped boost attendance to 315 guests, 20 percent more than in 2009. “We took a gamble that Sunday would be better because it didn’t compete with other nonprofit and sports events in Central Florida,” said Melissa Mason, the theater’s director of marketing. The day change also prompted organizers to hold the event earlier; it ran from 5 to 8 p.m., instead of from 6 to 10 p.m., as in years past.

Black Creativity Gala In January, the Black Creativity gala at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry got a new format. Past iterations of the event, which honors African Americans’ scientific achievements, included a sit-down dinner and dancing. When it became clear that guests wanted more of the latter— “guests at this gala do not stay in their seats,” said museum manager of community affairs Octavia Hooks—planners replaced the sit-down meal with a strolling buffet and added a new lounge with a DJ and an additional dance floor. When guests arrived, chair Peggy A. Montes delivered welcome news: “Tonight, you do not have to sit”—and the dance party lasted till the wee hours.

New York Fashion Week After 17 years at Bryant Park, IMG Fashion took a risky step—relocating the twice-yearly Fashion Week to the less-central campus at Lincoln Center. But the move enabled producers to revise the look, layout, and technology used for designer shows and set a new standard for the trade’s most important event. In doing so, IMG attracted 87 shows and presentations to its new site, up from the 63 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week’s final season at the park. Additionally, a partnership with electronic invitation and check-in program FashionGPS significantly reduced costs for designers and made getting into the tents more efficient for attendees.

Canada Blooms The country’s largest flower and garden festival relocated to the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place after 13 years at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “Sometimes you need to refocus,” said Canada Blooms general manager Gerry Ginsberg. The move enabled landscapers and providers—who invest almost $10 million in the show—to be more creative with their displays, thanks to easier load-in. Organizers also revamped the opening gala, dropping ticket prices from $200 to $75, which contributed to a nearly 200-person spike in attendance over 2009. Instead of open bars and entertainment, the party directed more attention to the horticulture industry, with 20 gardening personalities opening the show, which saw a 16 percent increase in overall attendance.

Ball on the Mall
As one of the few groups allowed to host an evening gala on the National Mall, the Trust for the National Mall’s L’Enfant Society already has an exclusive sales pitch, along with plenty of guests willing to spend several hundred dollars to party in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Looking to capitalize even further on the second annual event, the society’s planning committee added a two-hour, V.I.P. seated dinner for 350 people prior to the evening reception. It drew a new range of sponsors, helping double the evening’s take from $150,000 in 2009 to $350,000 in 2010.

Sign up for the BizBash Daily - stay current with the event industry.
Your email inquiry will be sent to 3 venue