This week the #Eventprofs twitter chat discussed the good, bad and ugly of co-location of events. There were mixed feelings on the topic, and a number of definitions shared. In the last six months I have attended three separate events which were co-located. Here are some thoughts and some things to consider.
Definitions (in my opinion)
Co-location: Two separate events which take place in the same location (usually a large hotel or convention center). The events have two separate sets of planners, from two different organizations. The planners coordinate several joint sessions or networking events. The events have separate registrations and may charge different fees. Attendees may attend all of a portion of the other event. In the case of the co-location of the PCMA Education Conference and AIBTM, there was a lunch for PCMA attendees on day on the AIBTM trade show floor and a joint networking reception for all. PCMA had a traditional registration fee while AIBTM was a hosted buyer arrangement.
The advantage here is that people can save money on travel by having two experiences in one location. Additionally they may have exposure to new information that they would not necessarily have had with a single event. I attended BlogWorld East last month in New York. I didn’t know until I arrived that it was co-located with Book Expo of America (BEA). While I wasn’t familiar with BEA, I had the chance to briefly visit the expo and enjoyed the experience. I particularly enjoyed session on publishing that we held as part of the BlogWorld sessions, but were enabled by having BEA present at the same location.
One disadvantage is that people may be forced to split their time or may be overwhelmed with information and people. Sponsors may also be fighting for the attention of participants if the time is not divided well.
Combined: I’m using this term, although there may be different jargon. This is when two organizations marry their respective events. Planning is typically consolidated and representatives from each event work together on content and program design. In some cases their may be a track that is for one of the groups to give them some consistency. The Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) announced that they will be combining efforts in 2012 with the American Institute of CPASs. I believe that they referred to this as a co-location, but it appears to be more like one single event with a marketing track for the AAM members.
The advantage of this type of arrangement is that two organizations or events can leverage resources and sponsors.
The disadvantage is that by combining into one single event, the uniqueness of each event may be lost is some of the intimacy. However, if it is a case where the events are so similar in focus and message, there may be no downside to combining.
Inconjunction With: These are smaller events that occur for a small subset of the general attendee population. This can be a great way to get together at a major industry conference that the majority of your group is already attending. For example, a committee from one organization may hold a meeting the day prior to the start of a large event that most committee members were already going. This gives them the chance to get together face-to-face without additional travel time and expense.
This type of event is great for the organizers of the larger event because they may capture a few attendees who weren’t already going or who were undecided. It’s important that if you are planning this type of gathering that you coordinate with the “parent” event planners as they may already have connections at the venue and can streamline the process for you.
Two Many Events?
There is still a lot of debate about whether or not these types of events are useful. It makes me wonder if we simply have too many groups trying to produce events targeted at the same market. People only have so much money and so much time to be out of the office and away from their families. By teaming up with another organization, there can be substantial benefits to the attendess.
It is is clear that SYNERGY is important. Whether it’s a shared target audience, bringing together buyers and sellers, similar content or shared goals and values, there must be value in bringing to events together.
I think that this trend will force organizations to take closer look at WHY they are planning an event and what the participants get from the experience. It may cause a change in budget allocation for sponsorship dollars and it also may impact travel from an economic standpoint. We have seen a huge reduction in business travel over the last three years and this may not help. However, it may make travel and education dollars easier to get because it maximizes the experience. There are a lot of factors at play. What are your thoughts? Is co-location and combination a trend or the wave of the future?