Reinventing a Chamber Expo

Having always been on the exhibitor side of things when it came to expos and trade shows, when I was called upon to produce the business expo for the North Dallas Chamber, I had to stop and think about where to start.

I was now on the other side.

A chamber expo is the one opportunity for the membership of the organization to get to tell their story to the membership (and beyond) of the chamber (and community). It is also a way for the Chamber to share its brand with the community and potential members.

The North Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Building Business Expo has long been a staple on the North Texas calendar.  Now in its 10th year, we had the opportunity to do something different but still maintain the brand and meet the original goals.

The something different was to be strategic related to a project close to the Chamber’s on-going mission: the support of Dallas Midtown.  Dallas Midtown is a revitalization of a critical 400-acre parcel right in the middle of North Dallas.  The Chamber is a key sponsor and hired the architect to create the vision.  They also guided the project through the city’s power infrastructure.

Besides, our previous location in nearby Addison, was booked for the entire month in which we were scheduled to hold the Expo.

Armed with this mission, we took this approach:

  • Worked with the shopping center that is the core of the Midtown project and secured exhibit space.
  • Arranged with an exhibit supplier for pipe and drape (never used previously) to outline the space and define the individual exhibit spaces.
  • Contracted with an electrical contractor and an internet service provider to give the exhibitors access to these necessary services.
  • Sold space for either cash or in exchange for memberships, sponsorships or wanted materials (graphics, signage, services).
  • Promoted the heck out of the program via social media (primarily Twitter and Facebook) for the almost 4 months prior to the event.

The results after the Expo opened and ran:

  • No decline in attendance.
  • 50% of the exhibitors and visitors approved of the new (different) location.
  • While expenses were greater (pipe and drape and services), the overall net income and exchanges were equal to the previous year.
  • Increases in social media followers (the Chamber Twitter account had an increase in followers of 50%).

The Expo is scheduled already for 2014 with plans to be at the old venue in Addison.  But it was proven that this key pillar of an event on the Chamber calendar could be moved and used as a strategic tool to meet and promote Chamber issues.


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