The Department of Defense (DoD) holds The Worldwide Education Symposium & Expo 2012 (WW12) once every three years. The conference attracts over 2,000 attendees including military, civilian, and contract personnel as well as academic and industry partners. In 2009, the organizing committee selected Las Vegas, Nevada as its next conference location. Through the planning phase, controversy hit the meeting planning industry. Investigations of government conferences such as the 2010 General Services Administration Employee Conference revealed excessive spending. With increased attention on and uncertainty for government conferences, WW12 still had to attract attendees, exhibitors and sponsors while adhering to changing expectations and requirements set forth by Congress and agencies.
The Challenge: Increase Attendance and Exhibit Sales during the GSA Excessive Conference Spending Scrutiny
Since 1994, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) coordinated The Worldwide Education Symposium, which hosted sessions that support recruitment, readiness and retention in our Armed Forces. Under the threat of budget cuts, DANTES contracted APEX Meetings (APEX) for the conference management under a zero-cost contracting vehicle. APEX would be solely responsible for developing the pricing, marketing, selling exhibitor space and sponsorships, registration and production. Since all the revenue generated would be applied to the conference, it was imperative that APEX maximizes its efforts to attract as many attendees, exhibitors and sponsors as possible.
The Solution: APEX Meetings (APEX) Provided a Zero-Cost Contract with a Comprehensive Set of Conference Management Solutions to Generate Revenue that Paid for WW12
Through an integrated marketing effort, APEX Meetings increased attendee registrations, exhibitor sales and sponsorship revenue. Each market had a dedicated strategy that involved direct mail, email, telemarketing, e media and social media tactics. List acquisition and competitive research resulted in a more robust database of prospects.
APEX Meetings used telemarketers to call all prospects for exhibitors and sponsors. Customer relationship management (CRM) software was built to track leads, manage contracts, issue invoices/receipts, and collect information needed for decorator and booth management. The CRM hosted a series of customizable reports, which provided essential information to DANTES, vendors and APEX.
WW12’s website provided a customized experience for the conference attendee. After creating a secure account online via the WW12 website, the user could identify him/herself as an attendee, speaker, exhibitor, sponsor or a combination of profiles.
Speakers submitted online applications in response to a call for papers. DANTES then could approve and schedule selected speakers online. Since the information was captured in a database, DANTES saved time by not having to redo the data entry and could provide feedback to speakers in real-time. When prompted, the information would automatically be published and updated on the website’s session schedule with speaker/panelist name and bio. Information was easily extracted for conference programs and scheduling purposes.
Exhibitors applied for exhibit space online as well as had a real-time diagram view of booths that were available for selection. As soon as booths were approved, the exhibitor could further manage information that was needed for their booth signage, directory descriptions and invoices/payments. An online shopping cart allowed for credit card transactions as well as notifications that a check will be sent. All payments posted to the exhibitor’s account giving them real-time status updates.
- No cost to the government
- Program officer concentrated on agency’s mission and objectives
- Increased educational opportunities
- Additional revenue-generating opportunities enacted by non-federal entity (NFE) which otherwise could not be done by government agency
- Attracted 2,000 attendees
- Increased exhibitors by 66%
- Increased sponsorships by 19%
- The cost to produce the conference did not apply to DoD’s budget and was well within the guidelines set forth in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.
About The Worldwide Education Symposium & Expo 2012
Over 50% of WW12 attendees represented DoD (military, civilian and contract personnel). Others included officials from over 250 colleges, universities, and others who support higher education.
DANTES proudly educates American patriots.