By: Jessica Finnerty, CEM, Manager, Meetings & Events, Auto Care Association
We are navigating in uncharted waters. While there is always an element of unknown when planning an event, the current levels of uncertainty are beyond anything we have ever experienced. So how in the world do you plan a large-scale event for November when you aren’t even sure what next week will look like?
The Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) is held annually in Las Vegas, NV and typically hosts more than 2,500 exhibitors and almost 50,000 attendees. At five and a half months out, we are currently in a critical planning period, and we are moving forward with all systems go. Happily, the auto care industry is a robust one and early indicators have all been positive. Our industry is ready to get back to business, and it is apparent that they see the value at AAPEX.
AAPEX’s exhibitor commitment is strong. Despite tightened budgets and an uncertain future, we have already surpassed 2019’s total booth count by close to 200 booths. Additionally, we are seeing companies signing on to participate in some of the new spaces and initiatives for 2020. I attribute much of this success to our communication, transparency and adaptability. Show management has been relentless in working with our exhibitors to ensure that they feel their investment is protected. We reworked and extended our cancellation policy so that companies can contract with confidence and have worked with our vendors to ensure minimal risk for placing service orders. When we received some concerned feedback regarding an existing policy we listened and adjusted accordingly. We have also provided constant communications and updates. Our website and email communications have contained language addressing the situation since it began. And just this past week, we released our first AAPEX Exhibitor Town Hall video, where AAPEX ownership answered crowd-sourced questions about the show.
On the attendee side of the spectrum, we are also seeing positive indicators. Our registration opened a week later than normal and without the usual big marketing push that would normally accompany it. Despite that, we had over a thousand registrants find the site on their own within the first week and that number is continuing to climb. While the numbers are a far cry from our usual showing at this time, it’s still very encouraging to see attendees engaging this far out (and without financial motivation since our early bird pricing extends through October). And, similar as to our exhibitors, we are working to ensure that attendees feel safe and secure – both with their investment and with their health. We are looking at ways to offer cost-savings where possible. And we are closely monitoring the best practices and safety guidelines that are just now starting to be put into place within the industry and will be enforcing them rigorously.
As we look ahead to the coming months, our plan is to just continue with these efforts. We have a second Exhibitor Town Hall broadcast scheduled for the beginning of summer and are still planning on hosting our Exhibitor Booth Camp, a free event for our exhibitors which provides show updates and education. Communication and transparency will continue to be key. And no matter what happens, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure safety, quell fears and provide value for everyone who is placing their trust in us.
Here’s hoping that these positive trends continue, both for our show and for all of yours’. In the meantime, stay safe – looking forward to seeing you all again soon.