Best of 2009: A Trade Show With Record-Breaking Numbers

Libby Taylor relied on early booth sales and a timely marketing message to draw record-breaking numbers to the All Candy Expo.

December 28, 2009, 9:00 AM EST

The National Confectioners' Association's Libby Taylor

Photo: Carl Weaver

Libby Taylor, vice president of membership and meetings at the Washington-based National Confectioners’ Association, has been in charge of planning the group’s All Candy Expo since 1997. In 2009, as attendance and booth sales at many trade shows dropped, the sweets-filled event at McCormick Place in Chicago saw a 15 percent jump in the number of exhibitors from the 2008 show, and attendance increased by 6 percent.

Taylor speculated that the event’s success was due in part to the recession-proof nature of the industry. “Our marketing message all year was that in a down economy, confectionery still does well—it’s an affordable item,” she said. “Also, I think we did well because snacks and confectionery are things that people need to taste, touch, and see. When it comes to confectionery, nothing is better than sampling.”

Still, Taylor takes nothing for granted. “Each year, we work to make sure that we aren’t becoming complacent,” she said.

How do you account for the increase in booth sales at the 2009 Expo?
Early planning accounts for a lot. At each year’s show, we dedicate a room to booth bookings for the following year’s event. Clients can speak directly to our sales reps in a space right off the show floor. It’s convenient, and it works very well. The bulk of [booth sales] happens during the show. In [September 2009] we’re already 90 percent sold out for the [May] 2010 show.

After this year’s success, how do you keep your team from becoming complacent?

In June, we had a trade show expert lead our board members and committee members through a two-day process that explored our strengths, our weaknesses, and our threats. We honed in on the two key points that we can use to drive exhibitors and attendance. We’re also putting a heavy emphasis on added values for our attendees. And in 2010, we’re going to educate them about merchandising.

Furthermore, we’re branching out for 2010 to nontraditional candy buyers. For example, we’re targeting buyers for hardware stores, home-goods stores, and ice cream retailers.

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