Connecting IAPD Members with connecX
by Susan Avery, CAE

efore everything changed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the pleasure of announcing a new approach to the tradeshow and private supplier meetings at the IAPD Annual Convention: connecX. This new concept is the result of the work of the Convention & Trade Show Task Force, which formed in 2019 to study whether changes needed to be made to the Annual IAPD Convention and Tradeshow. We hoped to launch connecX in 2020, but I’m happy to report that it will debut at the 65th Annual IAPD Convention this August 16-19 in Louisville, KY, USA.

How connecX happened
The Convention & Trade Show Task Force relied on data from member surveys to guide their work. The data disproved some assumptions and helped the task force go beyond anecdotal stories to learn what really matters to members. Not surprisingly, the data showed that the format that’s been in place for several years wasn’t working. The trend has been for some larger manufacturers having private supplier meetings and not exhibiting on the tradeshow floor. This option lends itself to substantive meetings with some of their current distributors but limits the ability to meet with others.

The historical data and the member survey showed that many meetings between larger manufacturers and distributors take place in the private supplier meeting rooms. These rooms are used throughout the convention schedule (except during the tradeshow and General Session). The tradeshow was mostly being used by smaller manufacturers, equipment distributors and fabrication products companies. Without many of the manufacturers having both private meeting rooms and a booth at the tradeshow, they were missing out on key categories of distributors.

Larger distributors were more likely to be invited to the private supplier meetings. But there is only so much time for those meetings, and they were visiting the tradeshow floor to meet with suppliers that they did not meet with in the meeting rooms. Smaller distributors were less likely to be invited for private meetings in the meeting rooms and were using the show floor as the way to meet with all their current and prospective suppliers. But because many of the larger suppliers were using meeting rooms only, they failed to meet the expectations of the smaller distributors. Overall, the survey showed that IAPD facilitating and hosting BOTH the private meeting rooms and the tradeshow floor was vital to meeting the needs of the distributors.

Members were very clear. The private supplier meetings and the tradeshow meet very different needs of distributors and manufacturers, and both are necessary.

Making connections with connecX
Thus, an exciting new approach to helping IAPD members make connections during the annual convention was formed. The new model, dubbed “connecX” (pronounced “connects”) consists of both private meeting rooms and exhibitor meeting space. Companies can have a private meeting room and an exhibitor space, or just one or the other. A new appointment-setting service automates the process of making appointments (appointment-setting for the tradeshow debuts this year and may be introduced for the private supplier meetings in future years). Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.

Private meeting rooms are designed for more substantive meetings with existing partners. They involve:

  • Availability throughout the convention schedule
  • Your company name on the official IAPD schedule and door signage
  • Options for discount packages for food and beverage, audio/visual equipment and IAPD staff assistance with event planning

The exhibit meeting space will be for walk-by traffic and short introductory meetings (exhibitors and attendees can schedule appointments to meet during the exhibit time). This includes:

  • Availability during the tradeshow time slot
  • A simple tabletop set up facing the trade show floor, with a highboy table at the back of the booth for short meetings

This set up is designed to make exhibiting simpler and less expensive for exhibitors, as there is no need to ship a full trade show booth to the event.

The appointment-setting service will:

  • Allow all registered attendees to indicate who they want to meet with
  • Set appointments only if both parties agree to meet
  • Allow companies to determine the duration of the meetings (e.g., an hour-long or a 20-minute meeting on the exhibit show floor)

This new format allows companies that find value in the private supplier room meetings to continue to have those meetings, but also gives them the opportunity to make new connections or meet with more of their distributor partners on the exhibit floor. On the exhibit floor, smaller manufacturers get face time with distributors of all sizes, smaller distributors get face time with larger manufacturers and all attendees can meet new contacts and learn about new products. It also provides a means for foreign and new manufacturers to be introduced to the North American performance plastics distribution market.

We are very excited to launch connecX at the 65th Annual IAPD Convention, to be held August 16-19, 2021 in Louisville, KY, USA. In the convention coverage section of this issue, you’ll see the companies that have already secured booth space. Visit www.iapd.org for more information, to reserve your meeting space and to request your appointments. We look forward to hearing your feedback about this new approach, and we hope that it helps all convention attendees make valuable connections. I look forward to seeing you there.