ASIS Adjusts to Challenging Times

Despite operating during a severe recession, this year’s ASIS Seminar and Exhibits experienced only a slight decrease in attendance, less than 9 percent, compared to 2008, according Michael Cummings, CPP, 2009 president of ASIS Int’l. Cummings, who is director of loss prevention services for Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, discusses the 2009 event and beyond.

What was your main challenge in staging the 2009 show in Anaheim?

A significant number of our members told us that they are dealing with restrictions in travel budgets and reductions in budgets for professional development and training. So we were expecting that our numbers would probably not increase from 2008. Some of our exhibitors downsized their booths and some brought fewer people to help contain their costs of travel and accommodations.

In your view, how did the 2009 show succeed most notably?

We feel that this year’s show was a success in part because we got a lot of positive feedback from exhibitors who said they were pleased with the high-quality decision makers that were in attendance. Our data indicates that more than 50 percent of our attendees are mid- to senior-level management security professionals. And that more than 90 percent of them are involved in security purchases for their companies or organizations. This is one reason why many of our exhibitors return year after year.

Virtual trade shows can be far less expensive for exhibitors as a means for generating leads. Would ASIS consider offering some type of programming in this format?

We provide the opportunity for the exhibitors to offer information and resources on their products and services on the ASIS Web site throughout the course of the year. Even so, this does not take the place of the face-to-face experience that our attendees seem to prefer, as evidenced by the fact that networking is one of the reasons people attend the ASIS Seminar and Exhibits.

Does ASIS consider virtual trade shows a threat to future attendance?
I don’t think so. We know that industry-specific trade shows are an important way for security professionals to obtain the information they need to make purchasing decisions.  And trade shows are the most efficient way exhibitors can meet prospective customers face-to-face. The ASIS Seminar and Exhibits is known as the security industry’s best networking event. I don’t think that will change anytime soon. Especially in light of the extensive online tools we offer. 

How far in advance do you begin preparing to select the city and location?

We work about six to 10 years out. We consider the size of exhibit and meeting spaces, and the proximity and number of hotel rooms. We want the venue to be accessible, by car and/or by air. And we try to rotate our meetings around the country.

The 2009 event included the first Accolades product showcase. Give us a sneak peak at the 2010 show in Dallas.

We will continue the Accolades competition in Dallas, which by the way, will be held Oct. 12-15. We are also doing a survey of attendees and exhibitors and will incorporate their feedback in developing plans for 2010.


Do you feel trapped by the attendance numbers to some degree? For instance, if the turnout is down or stagnant from the previous year the general perception can be the show wasn’t a success. 
Not really. We know that attendance numbers will fluctuate, depending on a myriad of factors. And we know that similar events experienced greater drops in attendance this year. Despite the economy, I think our attendance figures show that we are still very relevant.

Large firms have the money for premium booth space, onsite advertising and such. This can create what seems like an uneven playing field for small and medium firms. How can they be heard above the show floor din? 
We introduced ASIS Accolades this year, an awards competition that recognizes the security industry’s most innovative new products, services and/or solutions. We invited all exhibitors to submit new technology, product or service solutions for evaluation for the first annual competition. A team of judges representing end users and experts in physical security and information technologies reviewed more than 130 entries before selecting 10 winners.

If an exhibitor experiences sluggish traffic, maybe they need to assume the responsibility to some degree. Is ASIS forced to contend with lamenting exhibitors that maybe don’t have new product offerings or a new message to deliver?
ASIS offers exhibitors many opportunities to get people to their exhibits, including aggressive show promotion – direct mail as well as advertising in industry trade media, which reaches local, national and international markets – complimentary exhibits-only passes, dedicated exhibit hall time periods, free company listings in promotional materials and on the ASIS Web site, access to attendee mailing lists, advertising opportunities in ASIS publications, sponsorships and much more. We also offer tips on boothmanship.



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