Tradeshow Insights from Events Professional Breen Halley Miller
February 12, 2019
In Development Counsellors International’s recently published third edition of “A View from Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing,” statistics revealed that tradeshow presence is a major component of the North American planner’s path to purchase when it comes to working with destinations. According to the study, 38 percent of planners selected trade show appointments as their preferred method to communicate with suppliers. In fact, 56 percent of the 120 “Winning Strategies” MICE professional respondents reported having attended IMEX America or Frankfurt within the last three years.
Let’s use IMEX America as an example. Any serious planner will arrive with a maxed-out itinerary of appointments and various sponsored activities to choose from over the course of three days, correlating to the needs of their events lineup for the upcoming year. On a show floor of over 3,500 exhibitors from 150 countries, with over a dozen destination breakfast invitations taking place in every upscale restaurant lodged in Los Vegas’ Venetian resort, making a lasting impression is no small feat. Wooing your target audience requires some out-of-the-box creativity to stand out from your competition.
A mere PowerPoint presentation on that new, state-of-the-art facility and five-star property will no longer suffice, especially by Day 3. So, to help uncover ways to engage and inspire clients and set destinations up for tradeshow success, we interviewed Breen Halley Miller, an account manager at Black Flower Agency in Manhattan.
Breen is a seasoned industry veteran with an extensive background in event, marketing and promotional roles, including large-scale corporate and social event design and production. Her current agency, Black Flower, specializes in marketing, events, production and promotions. The agency’s clients and partners include some of the most distinguished names in fashion, beauty, sports, culinary and entertainment. Given the nature of Breen’s demanding, high-profile clients, she sets the bar high when it comes to conceptualizing event ideas and delivering impressionable experiences that create the desired association with the brand or destination behind each event.
Describe some of the key elements that go into making an event or brand activation memorable and impressionable from a planner’s perspective.
To identify the key elements is to know your audience and match this knowledge with your client’s goals. In my opinion, the best guest experience incites all of the senses – taste, touch, sight and sound. There are many times when you have a beautiful venue but it’s poorly lit or you have a stunning tablescape but the catering is less than desirable. It’s a delicate balance to ensure that all design elements go together, but they must also be of quality. I believe that just because something looks good doesn’t necessarily mean that it tastes or sounds good as well.
Do you have any tips for ideation or the creative process?
Personally, I feel that having a wealth of travel experience in your background equates to new and fresh ideas. It’s easy to come up with a theme, but what if you can apply elements of a theme based on real-life experience and seeing it firsthand?
Can you give us an example of a memorable event that you’ve planned and why it was effective for the brand, successfully serving the purpose of the event?
My favorite event was a fashion event that we produced for one of our clients. We designed a “once-in-a-lifetime” program with activities that no one has access to, and that created an experience for our guests that was not only memorable but also unique and special. This wasn’t a branding event in regard to logos and traditional branding but a program that was unforgettable, that was then associated with our client.
What was some of the feedback you received from guests who attended? What excited them?
There were so many “wow” moments that, as soon as you processed what you just experienced, there was another moment right behind that. It was one of those events where you know how special it is in the moment, but you also look back after the fact and are so grateful to have experienced that in life. And our guests found that to be exciting.
What draws you to using one vendor supplier over another?
A positive working relationship is key. I think that while you may like a vendor at first, you don’t really know until after you’ve worked on an event together if the relationship is going to continue. For me, I need to know that my vendor partner will be just as willing to go above and beyond as we are for our clients. While no one likes to hear or say no, you must find a way to a solution on both ends. And that’s what makes a strong working relationship.
What are some examples of keeping attendees engaged?
We try to ensure that, if there is downtime between events on a program, guests are free to do as they wish. I don’t believe in keeping a guest somewhere with nothing to do, as I’d rather ensure that they have free time to themselves. So, when we are running a program, they are constantly entertained.
When working with international destinations, do you have any advice for destinations and their venues on attracting and working with U.S. event and meeting planners?
A lot of U.S. planners may not have the firsthand experience on what it’s like to experience a particular destination, which is what makes it challenging for us to sell the destination to our clients. Any way you can promote a sense of the destination that is more than just a brochure or video is key.