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Jason Conover of Catering Creations plans to hand out samples of sliced brisket and sweet green beans to reach new customers at the 2010 Business & Technology Expo.
Jason Conover of Catering Creations plans to hand out samples of sliced brisket and sweet green beans to reach new customers at the 2010 Business & Technology Expo.

Changes aim to boost Business Expo attendance

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In addition to getting face time with representatives of nearly 170 businesses, attendees at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business & Technology Expo will have the opportunity to take a special tour and get their passports stamped for the chance to win cash prizes up to $300.

The chamber has added the Tour de Expo to this year’s event – scheduled for 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Oct. 7 – to draw more visitors, said Kristin Lochner, the chamber’s manager of special events. About 2,000 people attended the expo last year, and expectations are to meet or exceed that count this year, she said. This year’s event will again be held at the Springfield Expo Center, 635 E. St. Louis St.

While 168 vendors had signed on to participate in the expo as of Sept. 27, Lochner said nine have paid an additional $150 to be part of the Tour de Expo in an effort to draw more potential customers to their booths, where they will get the requisite stamps for contest entry.

Another change is that instead of offering several workshops throughout the day, this year’s expo will have only one workshop, held noon–1:30 p.m. The workshop, How to Grow Your Business! will be presented by Ellen Rohr, owner of BareBonesBiz.com and a columnist for Springfield Business Journal. She will focus on marketing and tracking marketing efforts.

“With some of the cuts companies have had to make, it’s hard for employees to be out of the office for multiple hours during the workday,” Lochner said. “We thought having one main workshop during lunch would help companies.”

The expo has drawn more than 200 vendors in the past and Lochner said vendor numbers are down this year despite the fact that fees for chamber businesses only increased $10 from 2009.

Costs for chamber members this year range from $495 for a standard booth to $595 for a prime corner location. The nonmember rate is $695, and the fee for nonprofits is $285.

“I think that most companies are still cutting their marketing budgets or holding on to them,” Lochner said.

The expo gives companies the opportunity to reach many potential customers in a single venue. The methods they use to connect depend on their lines of business.

First-time vendor Jason Conover, co-owner of Catering Creations, expects the expo to be a tool to help grow his business clientele. The three-year-old company focuses on catering business lunches, picnics and holiday parties, as well as weddings and family events.

“We specialize primarily in comfort food and barbecue,” Conover said. “Commercial clientele is one of our target markets, and we think this is a fantastic way to get food in front of the clients we are looking for.”

To that end, Conover said he’ll be giving away samples of some of his entrees, including barbecue brisket and pecan-crusted chicken, at his booth, possibly along with sweet green beans and salads.

The idea, he said, is to leave a lasting impression.

“Food is what we do,” Conover said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to connect with the decision makers or people who go back to their decision makers.”

Conover said the expo also will be a good opportunity to reconnect with clients.

“We want to talk to our existing customers, shake some hands and maybe also talk to
some people we haven’t seen in awhile,” he added.

Electronic Video Systems, which sells and installs presentation systems, audiovisual equipment and interactive whiteboards for businesses, has participated in the expo for seven years.

“I think it’s one of those events where your absence speaks louder than your presence,” said Raun L. Hamilton, vice president and general manager. “We want to make sure we keep our exposure strong within the business community.”

While some vendors spend money on small gift items to give away during the expo, Hamilton said that approach hasn’t really worked for EVS.

“We just try to keep it simple and focus on the technology and let that speak for itself,” he said.

Hamilton said most of the contacts he makes at the expo are with other business vendors, and he spends a lot of time walking the floor to keep in touch with clients. He and the other vendors will have an extra opportunity to connect with each other this year during a vendor-only reception 5–7 p.m. Oct. 6.

“We surveyed some of our vendors, and they said the biggest leads they get usually come from other exhibitors,” said Lochner. “We wanted to give them another opportunity to get together.”

Hamilton said there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with potential clients, and he never knows where he might find new opportunities.

“This is a business event, but a lot of these business people are also on church boards and boards of other nonprofits,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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