Are hosted buyers the answer?

By June 11, 2015Events

Do compulsory appointments spoil the show?

So, you’ve got your hosted buyer status sorted, flights organised, dinner with a prestigious hotel group and promises of champagne receptions for several hours on the trot. Then comes the tricky bit…what to do about those troublesome timed appointments?

If you’ve ever been speed-dating, you will soon get the idea. The deal is that you have to see everyone, even the ones you think you would never in a million years be interested in.

You get 10 minutes for each one to make an impression on you or for you to make an impression on them. You clock those you really got on with. You psychologically bin those where there is absolutely nothing to say. If you end up with no date at the end of the evening, so be it. You live to fight another day and you become sadder but wiser.

But business contacts are not dates. This is where the whole concept is wrong. For a start, unless you are a complete freeloader, there will be a number of suppliers you really want to see for specific business reasons.

The trouble is they are probably the most popular suppliers in the show, so when you apply to get an appointment with them through the system, their diaries are already booked up. So, you end up having to see lots of people you never set out to see when you agreed to be a hosted buyer.

The ones you did not want to see then fall into two categories…those who don’t want to see you and those who do but cannot think why. Those who don’t want to see you simply don’t turn up at the appointed time. Very rude, but actually a bonus because you can now go and find someone you would like to talk to…just like at a normal exhibition.

Those who do want to see you but for whom you have no business use are very obliging but a waste of time. The reason they think they want to see you is, of course, a fault of the booking system. You are meeting because they could not find a match between you and their business. So it all becomes a bit pointless. But the one advantage is that you could then have a meeting with someone you really wanted to see…if they have a spare moment in their busy appointments schedule.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that the exhibitors pay for the cost, so they are entitled to be able to dictate the terms of the deal. We will fly delegates out if you will agree to be sold to. But somewhere along the way we have missed the whole point of an exhibition.

Potential buyers take time out from their busy diaries to see if new suppliers could help them achieve their business needs. Unfortunately there are a lot more sellers than buyers, which makes the whole timed appointments system like a meat market…with a big clock ticking in the background. No pressure, then.

And then, having raced around a hot and sweaty exhibition hall for six hours, the evening event turns into a smaller replica of the same thing, where venues are given three minutes with each dinner ‘guest’ to make their sales points before the esteemed buyer is even allowed a drink.

By the time Day One ends, most buyers are exhausted and in no mood to watch yet another laptop PowerPoint with hotel names spelled wrongly and the standard prep-purchased images from Shutterstock. Then it’s time for bed and the whole miserable cycle starts again on Day Two.

Yes, I admit sometimes you come across destinations and venues that surprise you and an activity provider will have a really good idea for an event you’ve been planning. But at what cost in frustration and tedium?

Why can’t we just have an exhibition where exhibitors have a stand and delegates pay for themselves to visit it? They then wander around the stands at their own pace and it is up to the charm and skill of the exhibitors to entice them into a business conversation. When the delegates have had enough, they can just go home.

Revolutionary and daring I know, but it might just work?


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