Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) is the world’s largest gathering of professionals in the field of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy, and gastrointestinal surgery. Its annual conference and exhibition attracts 15,000 attendees and approximately 250 exhibitors every May. a2z helped the organizers of DDW streamline and accelerate sales of the event’s growing number of sponsorship opportunities with the a2z Show Online Sponsorship Sales Management solution, and a little bit of healthy competition.
Transforming the Operation
Like many organizations, the DDW team became aware of the inefficiencies of a paper-based operation, especially with its fast growing inventory of sponsorships. “We were processing booth applications and sponsorships utilizing paper forms and over the last two to three years, DDW has really expanded their sponsorship offerings resulting in increased staff time needed to process paperwork which started to become very cumbersome hindering our ability to actually sell,” says Diedra Crawford, Industry and Sales Operations Director.
Migrating to a Better Solution
In an effort to begin the paper-reduction process and increase efficiency, DDW began using FloorplanGenie several years ago, a2z’s freemium floor plan management tool. For the 2016 event, the group implemented a2zShow, a full-featured online exhibit sales platform and the Online Sponsorship Sales (OSS) solution enabling companies to purchase enhanced listings and sponsorship options directly from the event website. OSS allowed DDW to upload art, display all sponsorships available by category and link to the general service contractor’s virtual tour of banner placements in the convention center.
More Efficiency, Higher Sales
Despite the drastic change from paper forms to a state-of-the-art, PCI-compliant ecommerce platform, exhibitors welcomed the a2z solution. “Being able to view all the available inventory, easily click and submit purchases in one step rather than fill out paperwork saved exhibitors time and energy” explains Kaitlin Bolum, Industry Sales Coordinator.
Rather than spread out sponsorship sales by introducing new products throughout the sales cycle, DDW released the entire 2016 inventory on one day. That change in procedure boosted first-day sales to a level much higher than organizers had experienced in past years. It drove excitement and competition among the buyers who, for the first time, were able to see the entire inventory at once. By December 2015, more than 60% of the sponsorships for the May 2016 show were sold.
The a2z sponsorship solution also helped DDW approach their sponsorship program more strategically. “It forced us to take a look at the sponsorships as a whole instead of dividing them up into categories. We were able to budget more efficiently and think about what we wanted to offer based on the facility. Typically, we haven’t launched sponsorship sales until January, so we are significantly ahead of the curve. a2z has put us on a good path,” explains Crawford.
A key objective for DDW going forward is to make a2zShow a cornerstone of the online exhibitor experience. The group has plans to integrate the registration platform and the general contractor’s ordering system with a2zShow to create a one-stop exhibitor resource center. Crawford, Bolum and team are also planning an exhibitor meeting at the site of the 2017 conference in Chicago where they will provide exhibitors with more in-depth training on the a2z features.