Why Attend an Exchange Event?
If you’re an industry professional with a long list of goals but not a lot of time, attending an exchange event might be for you. Exchange events, or appointment-based events, offer a cost-effective, efficient way for buyers and suppliers to meet, explore working together, and sign new business.
What is an Exchange Event?
Exchange events are gatherings that consist of a series of pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings between buyers and suppliers to discuss product offerings and establish working relationships. These smaller trade events host 120-150 attendees who make trusting, friendly relationships that mutually benefit each party.
Exchange events can be held in person or online. Both formats have their benefits. In-person exchange events are usually held over a couple of days at luxury resorts. Cocktail receptions and upscale dinners are on the agenda after a day of meetings in well-appointed ballrooms.
Virtual exchange events are hosted on premier meeting platforms over the span of a few hours. Virtual appointment-based events offer greater flexibility in that attendees can connect from anywhere and don’t incur travel expenses. Participants can seamlessly review other attendee or company profiles, schedule meetings, and attend without having to travel or take much time away from their daily responsibilities.
Both exchange event formats offer significant time savings. Instead of spending hours researching companies to work with, buyers can devote a couple of days (or a few hours) to meeting with companies who have already established their ability to supply the buyer’s needed products or services. On the other side of that coin, suppliers can consolidate their prospecting time by meeting with buyers whose participation in the exchange event means they’re eager to buy.
How does an exchange event differ from a trade show?
There are subtle similarities between trade shows or trade expos and exchange events. The purpose of both events is to facilitate meetings between vendors and buyers, so that vendors can expand or strengthen their client roster while buyers can learn more about the products and services they need, and the companies that provide those. A vendor might offer product demos or samples at the event. A buyer might have done preliminary research before the expo or exchange event and be ready to sign a contract after meeting with the vendor at the event.
Unlike at a trade show, there are no booths or formal show floor, and an exchange event on average hosts only between 120-150 attendees. This makes the atmosphere intimate and welcoming. By the end of the event, most attendees have at least been introduced to one another, and everyone has been given the time and space to talk one-on-one.
Both exchange events and trade shows are great places for strengthening existing client relationships, too. Seeing a vendor in person offers a buyer the chance to ask questions about product use and upcoming improvements. Seeing clients in person gives a vendor the chance to check in on their accounts in a personal way. These types of meetings, whether in person or via video conference, are the oil that keeps the nuts and bolts of business running smoothly.
How does an exchange event work?
Prior to the exchange event, the attendees schedule meetings. A third party, such as Global Exchange Events, coordinates applications, attendee profiles and all onsite logistics so attendees can focus on who they want to meet and what they want to accomplish at the event.
Both the buyer’s needs and supplier products/services offerings are appraised by each party prior to the event. All buyer-supplier meetings are agreed to by both parties once they independently determine a good potential fit. This makes the one-on-one conversation meaningful and productive. If one party declines a meeting, there is still the chance for everyone to talk informally at one of the exchange event’s receptions or meals.
The exchange event is always held at a luxury five-star hotel or resort. Virtual exchange events are hosted on a premium online meeting platform. Beyond the meeting room, attendees are encouraged to continue networking during mealtimes and other activities in a more relaxed setting.
How exchange events benefit buyers
Buyers meet with the top suppliers in their industries. They hear about the most up-to-date product offerings, programs and savings in a custom presentation from the vendor. They save precious working hours by participating in 20-minute appointments with up to 24 solution providers over a few days instead of spending hours hunting information online and waiting on answers from emails or phone messages.
Buyers attend exchange events for free. The host organization covers their airfare, hotel stays and food/beverage during the event. This takes a bit of pressure off the buyer to justify the cost of attendance and frees them up to be fully present and enjoy the event.
Many buyers remark that they accomplish more supplier research and progress toward selecting vendors in two days at an exchange event than they can in 6 to 9 months of vendor research from their offices. In short, an exchange event is an extremely efficient use of their time and can save them a great deal of money.
How exchange events benefit suppliers
Suppliers meet with key decision-makers from targeted companies through a series of pre-scheduled appointments. An exchange event only hosts decision-makers. Buyers are pre-qualified to ensure that they have decision-making capabilities.
Although the buyer is not obligated to make purchases at (or after) the event, they come with the knowledge that supplier representatives are there to pitch to them. This gives the supplier a huge advantage: pitching to an interested prospect that they know has the authority to take purchasing action.
The exchange event produces the same key benefits for the supplier as it does for the buyer: time and cost savings. An exchange event attracts buyers from across the industry which eliminates much of the time a vendor would spend prospecting. Suppliers don’t need to worry about selecting a venue and creating an inviting space in which to meet – the host takes care of the details. The vendor can show up and focus on their pitch.
Although suppliers must pay a fee to attend, the host organization takes care of all event logistics including matching profiles, suggesting appointments and arranging all logistics. Most supplier attendees report that an exchange event saves them hours of prospecting legwork and makes their return on investment in the event well worth the price.
An observation from some of our more mature events is that an exchange event is like a reunion of old friends. The types of connections made at an exchange event last for years and years.
Exchange events accommodate post-COVID workplace policies
Many associations are still limiting business travel in 2021. A recent survey by ASAE’s Research Foundation found that a plurality of associations anticipate allowing employees to travel for work beginning July 2021. Another 19% said they plan to postpone business travel until September. At the same time, most associations do not plan to host face-to-face meetings (fewer than 75 people) until the third quarter of 2021. They plan to hold off on hosting meetings for more than 75 people until the fourth quarter.
The most common reasons for waiting to attend or host face-to-face meetings until later this year are to wait for a larger portion of the general population to receive the COVID vaccine and for attendee organizations to lift business travel restrictions.
Exchange events, however, can safely accommodate buyers and sellers. Exchange event attendance is by invitation only and all attendees are carefully vetted so that only decision-makers are represented. All buyer-supplier meetings are one to one, and tables are spaced out a minimum of 6 feet to allow for meeting privacy. The host can require masks, frequent hand washing, temperature checks and any additional desired health preservation tactics. With a relatively small attendance, it’s easy for the host resort to offer socially-distanced meals and activities.
For hosts wanting to eliminate any chance of event-based disease transmission, virtual exchange events are a risk-free solution.
The benefits for the association
Associations are in the business of connecting buyers and sellers for the purpose of strengthening interpersonal relationships and the industry overall. While an association must be careful to be inclusive of all members and prospective members, they also must seize opportunities to make top companies and key decision-makers feel special. Exchange events help such high-performing companies and individuals stand out and achieve even more growth. The premier feel of an exchange event adds to the membership value your association can offer while pampering highly involved members. Meanwhile, appointment-based events remind supplier or associate members that membership in your association really does offer better access to prospects and the chance to strengthen existing client relationships on neutral, trusted ground.
Exchange events encourage friendly and trusting relationships
People do business with people they know, like and trust. Exchange events engender such friendly and trusting relationships. They introduce people –for the first time ever or for the first time in a while – but the core of the event, the appointments, is a cost-effective, efficient approach for building trusted, mutually beneficial buyer-supplier relationships that last beyond the two days. An exchange event is like no other industry event.