by Leo Jakobson | September 01, 2012
The Motivation Show Adapts to a Changing Marketplace 
Shortly before the roundtable, The Motivation Show, the main trade show dedicated to the incentive industry, announced significant changes. For decades, it had been held in September or October in Chicago. In 2011, two new hosted-buyer shows entered the U.S. market. These were AIBTM in Baltimore in April, and IMEX America, in Las Vegas in October. The Motivation Show lost nearly all its travel exhibitors – both hospitality providers and destination marketing organizations. 

While the 2012 Motivation Show will go ahead as planned, the 2013 show will be cancelled and a new, smaller Motivation Show Chicago focusing on merchandise and gift card suppliers — and of course industry education — will take place on May 6-8, 2014.

The Motivation Show has teamed up with the Promotional Product Association International (PPAI) Expo, which has a growing incentive merchandise exhibitor base, and will provide education at the January 2013 Expo in Las Vegas.

Incentive: What impact will the new and changing incentive industry trade shows have? 

Ernsting: IMEX America has reenergized the industry. The excitement, and the need and want to grow and learn and explore — I had never felt anything like IMEX America last year, and I hope that it will continue because it’s good for the whole industry. There’s also AIBTM, which is an interesting event, and so I don't think the industry really can support support that third show [The Motivation Show]. 

Beauchine: Everybody had faith in IMEX America because they had knowledge of [the long-running IMEX Frankfurt show’s] caliber in Europe, and people came and enjoyed it and benefited with business results. Resources are not vast for trade shows, they’re terribly expensive for exhibitors, and expensive for attendees unless there’s a business model that supports their attendance. 

We do know that IMEX has worked well, and it has worked for our clients — we’ve got a lot of clients there and we’ve got a lot of buyers there, and it was highly efficient in terms of both the buying process but also the educational process.

Peer: I'm particularly pleased to see the collaboration between [The Motivation Show and PPAI], two key parts of our industry. Last year, the board of IMA had drawn the conclusion that as a group, we need to have the showcase that The Motivation Show represents, to benefit the entire industry. We’d seen trends, like the departure of travel [exhibitors and buyers] that seemed to indicate that the end was near for that essential showcase.

As a result of the board’s observation and the strategic meetings that we had had [last year, before I became] president of the IMA, we reached out to the groups and suggested that we’re all in this together: Business out there is tough, and individually, we’re not going to be able to have the impact that we need to sustain our industry’s success, and there are so many threats out there that we need to work together. We need to find ways to collaborate, to break down the old barriers, and to leverage all of our assets so that we can prosper in the future. Not only should we get together and ensure that we have these showcases — The Motivation Show and the PPAI shows — we should get together and get two plus two to equal five.  

We’re also trying to pull together various [industry association] groups so that we can be more effective in Washington, D.C., so that we can be proactive rather than reactive to things coming down the pipe. One thing that was reflected in that was our response to the GSA scandal, in which the unfortunate, wasteful expenditure of government money by amateurs really had a negative impact [on the whole meetings and incentives industry]. We were able to get out there and respond quickly, so this really reflects a larger trend, a larger interest in all of us knocking down barriers and working together to benefit the industry at large. So our work on the shows is reflective of an ongoing effort, and there’s more to be done.

Hoddeson: It appears to me that the Motivation Show will become focused on merchandise. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although there is a little bit of overlap between [incentive decision-makers] who buy travel and who buy merchandise, I think they’re generally not the same people. I think that IMEX America and AIBTM — which is relocating to Chicago [from Baltimore next year] and alternating with Orlando — will be the two core shows attracting people who buy travel for recognition and motivation trips.

Peer: Clearly those shows are travel-centric, whereas we’re working feverishly to pull together, but I will say that the IMA is eager to work closely with the travel associations, which we believe are a key component of our industry. 

[The IMA’s] vision is that we don’t [want to] have any one type of [award product] dominant in our industry showcases, and we're eager to use this as a stepping stone to have that generalized incentive industry showcase with education, with the ability to get together and advocate for all of our mutual interests.  

Our vision is that we don’t have any one type of [award product] dominant in our industry showcases, and we're eager to use this as a stepping stone to have that generalized incentive industry showcase with education, with the ability to get together and advocate for all of our mutual interests.  

So while we’re not back to where we want to go, and I think that we are a little splintered now because of some of the changes, our vision is that we can slowly step back to having a centralized [trade show] to get our message out, to meet, to educate, and to advocate for our industry. Our vision is one of more teamwork and collaboration, and I think we're heading back in the right direction.