TAMPA, FL — Attendees packed the modest show hall at the Direct Marketing Association Telephone Marketing Conference last week to the delight of exhibitors, who soaked up sales leads like Florida sunshine.
While the exhibit hall was mostly empty during the morning and early afternoon hours of the show, which ran June 27-29, attendees flooded the exhibit hall floor during evening reception hours. Early estimates indicated that about 300 people attended the show at the Saddlebrook Resort, an increase from last year's attendance, a DMA official said.
Exhibitors said the show was small but intimate. Large, expensive displays were absent; instead, most exhibitors opted for tabletop displays and long conversations with prospects.
“You know what? It only takes one deal,” said Michael Kelly, senior account executive at Communication Concepts Group, Ivyland, PA.
The show was a relief from the hectic atmosphere prevalent at large expos such as the DMD Marketing Conference & Exposition, held at the New York Hilton in May, where people were “running around like a bunch of ants,” Kelly said. The Telephone Marketing Conference also lacked the goodie-grabbers who seem to attend marketing shows simply to collect trinkets, he said.
“It's not the biggest thing we've ever been to,” said Jerome Ferrara, sales account manager at eStara, Reston, VA. “But it's been great. Most of the people I've talked to have been very pleased with the size.”
A significant turnover among exhibitors from last year's conference was evident, with only about a third of the approximately 35 companies that exhibited last year returning for this year's show. However, new exhibitors filled out the roster, so the number of companies with exhibits at the conference was roughly equal to that of last year's show, which was held in West Palm Beach, FL.
Wendy Shooster, vice president of sales at Global Response Corp., Fort Lauderdale, FL, a longtime exhibitor at the show, said she made sure to secure two booth spaces this year, one for her display and one for sitting down to talk with prospects. She said she prefers the opportunities for relationship building at the Telephone Marketing Conference.
“You get to see a lot of the same faces,” Shooster said. “Everyone has the same interests. It's one of my favorite shows.”
Ken Cochran, an account executive at Experian, Lincoln, NE, said overall attendance at the show was “OK,” but he was impressed with the number of qualified sales leads. Cochran said he generally preferred larger conferences but appreciated the advantages of a cozy atmosphere.
“There's time to talk,” Cochran said. “You don't feel like you have to push them aside to spend time talking to the next guy.”
During the show, Jon Hamilton, president of JHA Telemanagement, received the Teleservices Excellence Award from the DMA Teleservices Council. Hamilton, a 30-year veteran of the teleservices industry, is the only person to have served both as chairman of the council and as president of the American Teleservices Association.