Quake-Shortened Show Unprecedented

Now that the dust has settled on the quake-shortened net.marketing show, marketers have praised the Direct Marketing Association for its handling of events. At least one, however, questioned whether a refund was in order.

The DMA effectively took charge of the situation in the moments after the ground stopped shaking. Some at the show specifically cited Mike Faulkner, senior vice president of councils and affiliates.

“Mike took charge and was really excellent about informing us all the way through,” said Deb Goldstein, president of IDG List Services, Framingham, MA.

Though the DMA had no alternative but to cancel the rest of the conference, the decision did cut exhibition hall time by 25 percent. Likewise, attendees lost more than 20 percent of their overall time at the show.

Attendees who are DMA members pay $650 for the pre-conference and workshop only, while non-DMA members and AIM and Internet Alliance members pay $750. Members pay $995 for the conference and exhibit only, AIM and IA members pay $1,145, and non-members pay $1,295. For the full package, members pay $1,345, AIM and IA members pay $1,595, and non-members pay $1,745.

Compounding the problem was that many exhibitors had already complained of a light turnout, though the DMA put official attendance at 1,659. That figure includes paid attendees, exhibitors as well as Seattle-area residents who saw an ad in The Seattle Times for a job fair at the show. The DMA does not break down the difference among paid attendees, exhibitors and hall visitors.

Mike Carney, president of DirectQlick.com, Mission Viejo, CA, raised the question of a credit in his quake recollection, saying, “I'd like to know if we are going to get a credit for time lost exhibiting. Seems fair to me. The DMA can afford a loser here and there. It will certainly enhance any decision to exhibit in the fall.”

Goldstein disagreed, saying that certain things are beyond the DMA's control.

“It's unreasonable for people to ask for some type of compensation because of an act of God,” she said. Still, she said the DMA “should think about compensation for exhibitors that might be related to lack of attendance.”

However, Goldstein was pleased with the show overall.

“We had a lot of good conversations,” she said. “It's more about quality than quantity, but not all the exhibitors experienced that.”

The DMA makes no mention of lost exhibition time because of natural disasters in its exhibitor service manual. However, a liability clause clears the DMA of any responsibility for damage to the property of exhibitors. It reads, “Neither the association or service contractors, building or grounds officials, nor any staff members or directors of any of the same are responsible for the safety of the property of exhibitors from theft or damages by fire, accident, vandalism or other causes.”

Chris Gallagher, the DMA's senior vice president of conferences, was traveling on business and could not be reached for comment.

The DMA said it has not received any requests for credits or partial refunds.

“We haven't heard from anybody yet, but we'll handle it on a case-by-case basis,” said spokeswoman Christina Duffney.

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