Business Expo 2008 will showcase the latest innovations in products and services to an expected crowd of thousands on Oct. 2 at the Springfield Exposition Center.
But perhaps the Expo's biggest innovation this year is its green focus, including Green Row, a business section for providers of environmentally friendly products, services and education.
"We set up about 15 booths for that section, and we sold that out almost instantly," said Chris Tuckness, vice president of community development/special events for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Because of the popularity of Green Row, the chamber has added an overflow section in the lobby area.
The green theme also headlines the Expo luncheon with the keynote presentation "Green 101," a panel discussion that covers everything from common green terminology to practical methods of establishing sustainable practices.
Panel members will be on hand to do one-on-one consulting in their various areas of expertise 1-4 p.m. during the Expo.
A prominent member of the Expo's green section - and a first-time Expo participant - is SMC Packaging.
The corrugated packaging industry started recycling about 30 years ago in response to the cost of raw material. "Today, we as an industry recover about 70 percent of what we produce and turn it back into more paper," said Mark McNay, vice president of operations for SMC Packaging.
A member of the chamber's Partnership for Sustainability, SMC Packaging chose to make its Business Expo debut largely because of the green focus, McNay said.
His goal for the show is to spread the word about what his industry and company are doing, and to serve as a resource for companies that want to positively affect the environment.
Green business isn't altruism, McNay said, it's pragmatism. And with giants like Wal-Mart requiring sustainable packaging, waste reduction and fuel efficiency, it's also a growth industry.
But sustainable practices aren't limited to producers of goods.
A longtime Expo participant that is stepping up to the green challenge is accounting firm BKD LLP.
BKD joined the chamber's Partnership for Sustainability, and its new downtown office building, which begins construction after Oct. 1, will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Silver certified, said Managing Partner John Wanamaker. BKD will emphasize its green commitment, and the Expo theme, in its booth, he added.
Maximizing marketing dollars
If there's a significant trend at this year's expo, it is the intensity with which exhibitors are approaching their marketing, Tuckness said.
The chamber's phones have been ringing and questions have been flying as exhibitors seek show demographics, marketing details and advice on how best to appeal to the 6,000 people expected to attend the Expo.
The chamber's pre-show education seminar in August drew an unusually large turnout of 100 participants, Tuckness said. He expects 230 to 240 vendors in the 2008 show, the same as last year, but he said those vendors are taking the marketing much more seriously.
"They're sending their top staff; they're making sure that their booth looks professional; they're making sure their message is consistent," Tuckness said.
"I've had more people do pre-marketing this year than probably ever," sending out postcards and adding to their mailing lists.
"I think that's directly related to the economy," he added. "Obviously, with the dollars getting tighter, they want to make sure they're spending it in the right place."
While marketing one's Expo presence is important, the human factor is the key to success, according to Doug Pitt, owner of Expo sponsor and longtime participant ServiceWorld Computer Center.
"We've learned over the years that you have a small window, and you really need to make the best of it," Pitt said.
Staffing the booth properly is essential. While some businesses delegate booth duty to low-level staff, Pitt said this is misguided, because the Expo is a time for the owner and managers to step up and represent the company. "It's your time to get out to the public and introduce yourself," he said.
Sitting in the booth is not an option. "The idea that you can sit in a chair and wait for them to come to you, you're going to miss the day," Pitt said. "You need to be up on your feet, ready to greet, and when you're not there, somebody has to take your place."
Pitt added that ServiceWorld will be showcasing its new PC- and network-based surveillance technology and its expanded wireless offerings during the show, along with its core business of wide area and local area networks.[[In-content Ad]]
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