Most Innovative Meetings 2013: #9 Pack Expo

Customized programs and specialized sections of the show floor aim to make the huge event effective and efficient for attendees.

By Mitra Sorrells September 10, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Photo: Courtesy of PMMI

For P.M.M.I, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technology, the design of its large annual shows is driven by a simple concept. “It’s all about the attendee,” said Jeannine Gibson, the association’s director of trade show marketing. “We try to match our audience with programs that are targeted to them, so the show floor is more productive and easier to navigate.”

Pack Expo rotates from Chicago in even years, where it is an international event, to Las Vegas in odd years for a primarily North American audience. Both shows are large: more than 1,900 exhibitors and 45,000 attendees attended in Chicago in 2012, and 1,600 exhibitors and 26,000 attendees are expected in Las Vegas this fall. Organizers segment the floor into market-specific pavilions: for example, one for pharmaceutical packaging, another for the confectionary industry. There are also market-specific networking areas with names like the Beverage Cooler and the Candy Bar.

For several years the association has offered the Innovation Discovery program, an experience tailored to large companies that bring teams of at least 18 people to the event. Benefits include private meeting rooms, trends presentations, and help finding solutions to meet their needs. This year, the association will begin a similar program for small- and medium-size businesses dubbed “SMB Fast Track.” Participants will get a guide to exhibitors offering incentives or tailored discounts, plus a “Fast Track Navigator” with suggested daily schedules,  email updates, and a dedicated networking center on the show floor. Executives from the businesses will receive even more personal attention as part of the SMB Fast Track Platinum program. “They may fly in to specifically see a solution,” Gibson said. “So we have a sourcing service where they can get personalized input from an industry expert who will help them source the solutions they need even before they get to the show.”

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