a2z FloorPlan Boosts Productivity and Saves Time for Small SWVS Staff
My personal virtual assistant was a2zFloorPlan. It helped with booth sales and financial management because I was out [on maternity leave] when payments were due and I was able to manage the entire process from home.
- Natasha Edwards, Exhibits Manager, SWVS
The Southwestern Veterinary Symposium (SWVS) is an annual conference and trade show that rotates between San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Veterinary associations in five states own the for-profit event that includes 200 to 250 booths and attracts more than 2,500 veterinarians, veterinary technicians, practice managers and office staff. Four people manage the combined exhibition and conference. When one staffer was out of the office on maternity leave in 2010 and 2012, SWVS looked for a reliable, flexible technology solution to reduce her workload. That decision caused a ripple effect throughout the organization.
"It gives me more time to work with exhibitors, which I love. I want to help them get the most out of our shows. Now that a2z has alleviated some of the work with accounting and booth sales, I can be more hands on."
- Natasha Edwards
Because of the small staff size at SWVS, each staff member is responsible for all aspects of her respective area of responsibility—meeting planning, exhibits, continuing education and sponsorship—with no room for overlap. When Exhibits Manager, Natasha Edwards, left for maternity leave in 2010, it was ten days before the Symposium opened leaving the on-site booth sales for the 2011 show to a woman with a tiny baby and a very full plate. When she left to care for her second newborn in May 2012, Edwards was in the middle of receivables collections and returned to work just three weeks before the 2012 Symposium (and the on-site booth sales for 2013).
Before using a2zFloorPlan, one of the biggest challenges for Edwards was financial management. She had been creating invoices using Microsoft Word, saving them as PDF files and emailing them to exhibitors. She kept a running Excel spreadsheet that she updated when payments were received. When a2z’s solution was implemented, the invoices were automatically generated as PDF files and emailed. She was able to enter cash receipts into the a2z platform (instead of a spreadsheet) so that reports could be generated with a few clicks. a2zFloorPlan also enhanced the on-site booth sales process for Edwards by replacing a manual booth selection process with an online, real-time platform.
a2z’s online floor plan functionality demonstrated an immediate positive return on investment for the Symposium. “We used to do booth sales on site Friday and Saturday for 6 hours and on Sunday for four hours. The lines were grueling and we used a paper floor plan. This year , we held space selection for 2 hours on Sunday only. I sold 65% of the booths for 2013 on site [a 15% increase from 2012] and an additional 15 booths to companies that were not previous exhibitors,” explains Edwards.
Natasha Edwards also realized huge time savings with the financial management module functionality of the a2z FloorPlan platform. “While I was out, we still had weekly sales meetings. It used to take at least four hours to generate the sales reports. Now it takes three to four minutes. It also helped us to get a financial summary report for our board meeting in a few minutes instead of hours,” she says. Plus, because the invoicing was automated, Edwards was able to combine advertising and sponsorship sales with exhibit sales and pare three invoices down to one.
The productivity gains that SWVS earned by implementing the a2z platform not only enabled Natasha Edwards to work through two pregnancies, but also sparked an organization-wide interest in streamlining other manual operations. Going forward, they plan on enabling their exhibitors to pay online via credit card to further reduce accounts receivable. They are reviewing the possibility of using a2z to schedule online booth sales—a functionality that they currently outsource—and integrating iPad functionality (for remote booth space sales) into the sales process. When asked what she will do with the extra time now that a2z has made her more productive, Edwards doesn’t hesitate. “It gives me more time to work with exhibitors, which I love. I want to help them get the most out of our shows. Now that a2z has alleviated some of the work with accounting and booth sales, I can be more hands on,” she says.