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Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Original Story: freep.com

Detroit is already rolling out a splashy welcome -- as it should -- for the 6,000 meeting planners expected to converge on the city this weekend for the 2015 ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) national convention. Trade show displays featuring your businesses products make a huge impact on potential consumers.

Attendees for the conference being held Saturday through Tuesday will be greeted at the airport with a bright new electronic sign blaring "Welcome ASAE!," just installed at the escalator down to baggage claim at the McNamara Terminal.

En route to downtown Detroit, they will be hailed by four billboards along I-94, due to be activated Thursday.

And once downtown, they will see two People Mover cars wrapped in a welcome message. They may even notice the big exterior graphics of Detroit attractions -- a Tigers game at Comerica Park, the Detroit Zoo, a casino gaming table -- covering up empty ground floor windows of two older downtown buildings. Custom graphic design services allow you to create graphics to fit almost anywhere.

Why the royal treatment for this particular group of conventioneers?

Because  ASAE's annual confab is widely regarded as the "Super Bowl of trade shows," bringing as it does the nation's top meeting planners.

And how big is the meetings biz? Real big. HUMONGOUS. A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers study concluded that 1.8 million meetings drew 225 million participants, resulting in direct spending of $280 billion during 2012 in the United States.

So these folks have a big say in where to stage all those meeting and conventions from year to year -- and this is the first time in its 95-year history that ASAE has brought its own annual shindig to Detroit.

So this is our shot to impress, Detroit.

The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), which lured the ASAE to town, is leading a host committee that has about 20 different subcommittees planning the lodging, transportation, welcome banners and even a series of pop-up experiences for the attendees.

For golfers among the ASAE visitors, it's been arranged to turn over the private TPC Michigan course in Dearborn, designed by Jack Nicklaus, for the the annual ASAE convention outing this Saturday. It's already sold out, said Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president of the DMCVB.

Entertainment over the weekend will include Lionel Richie at the Fox Theatre, a Legends of Motown performance at The Henry Ford, and a Sunday morning appearance by the Selected of God Choir of Chrysler's 2011 Super Bowl commercial fame.

Obviously, the DMCVB's pitch to bring ASAE to Detroit now was timed to coincide with completion of the $279-million expansion and makeover of Cobo Center -- and got an extra boost with the city's exit from Chapter 9 bankruptcy last fall.

Not everything in the city is picture perfect yet, of course -- thus the use of the window graphics to brighten up the appearance of "two of our older buildings in transition," as O'Callaghan called the former Detroit Free Press building at 321 W. Lafayette, and another structure at 1101 Washington Boulevard, across the street from the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel.

ASAE President John Graham IV estimates that his convention attendees will spend between $15 million and $20 million while in Detroit this month. But even more impressive, he said, is that during the next five years, 20% of them are expected to book a meeting in Detroit that will occur in the next 10 years -- for an an economic impact of about $500 million.

"I think we're seeing a city that is on the mend and on the comeback, and I think ASAE is delighted to be a part of that," Graham told me back in April.

Let's hope Graham and his ASAE conventioneers are feeling the same way this time next week.