Last Thursday the Centerstate CEO Business Show took place at the NY State Fairgrounds in the Toyota Building. Just to show I haven’t been paying attention lately, I didn’t even know there was a Toyota Building. It’s an annual event and the biggest business show of the year in these parts. And this year there were some changes that I thought I’d talk about.

For one, it was held in a different building than I’m used to. In previous years when they’d held it at the Fairgrounds it’s been in the Center of Progress Building. This year they supposedly had more businesses showing their stuff and thus moved to a larger venue.

I have to admit that every business show I go to has to find a way to match up with the show I went to with a colleague of mine, Deborah Krueger of Krueger Resource Recovery, a health care medical billing and cash acceleration company, back in 2005. Now that was a lively and energetic show, and it captivated both of us for close to 4 hours. The energy was great, the show was packed, and we each made many contacts. Since then, no business show has come close to the energy, probably because of how the Chamber at the time decided to start alternating the show’s location between the Fairgrounds and the Oncenter, which I love in general but hate for large events like this because of the lack of parking. That and the real lack of promotion seems to have reduced the number of people that go to the show, which is a shame.

This year I went with Renée Scherer of Presentations Plus, and, because of the change in location and having more displays because the Chamber reached out to more people in other areas of the state to exhibit, the layout was much different than in the past. Instead of having aisles, which I love, they had a mixture of aisles and what I’m going to call “zones”. In these zones, it was like there were maybe 8 to 10 businesses with displays and an open center that was, well, either open with nothing in the middle or had something such as seating, an internet cafe, and in one place they’d set up something so businesses could do speed networking. That was an interesting concept to do it at the business show; I didn’t partake in that.

For someone like me, the zones didn’t quite work. One could walk into the middle of a zone, look around, and if there wasn’t anything there that you were particularly fond of you could just move on. And some zones set up areas where some booths were kind of tucked away in a corner. You didn’t have to walk past them to get anywhere else so if you didn’t want to hit a dead end you just skipped it altogether; I did that. Also, there was one zone where they’d set up something where they were filming something for local TV in some fashion, since these weren’t for the networks, and behind it there was some other presentation going on. Then supposedly there was another area where the yearly presentations on topics that businesses might be interested in was being held; I never found that, and it was too bad because I was only looking to see one presentation, that being on social media, and I missed it; sorry Dan.

The layout of the event also caused a dichotomy of temperatures in the building. In the middle of the building it was extremely hot, while many of the exhibits around the edges were chilled because they were close to the doors and, this being Syracuse, it was pretty cold outside. Frankly, that problem was caused by there not being someone making sure all doors except the main entrance were used; I never even knew which one was the main entrance until I was getting ready to leave; we went in through a door that we thought was the main entrance but obviously wasn’t.

It was a better event than last year, but it still fell flat for me, and for many people I spoke to. I know it’s hard putting something like that together and pulling it off so it’s a success, and I commend the people who were able to do it. And yet there was still a major lack of energy, and that’s something that really needs to be addressed since they’re going to continue doing this thing. They need to figure out a way to capture the enthusiasm of not only local business people but people from across the state. Other than one in New York City, if they hold one, this should be THE event of the year for businesses. Actually, it is much better than the one in either Rochester or Binghamton, and I’m not even sure Binghamton is doing one this year.

What needs to happen, in my opinion? One, it really needs to be promoted better. I didn’t hear a single advertisement for it on TV or radio; if they did it then it wasn’t done well.

Two, they need to learn some lessons from Nicole Samolis of The Events Company, who last year pulled off a miracle by getting nearly 400 people to an event on social media in about six weeks.

Three, they need to better define where the special events are in the building, probably with signs and more early reminders of those events upcoming, and while you’re at it, find more topics that people will enjoy rather than, well, whatever you talked about this year other than the half hour on social media.

And four, have a better set up for where people are going to eat and grab something to drink. Having lines like you did for people waiting to get a quick sandwich or even something to drink and only so many tables with cheap seats that I for one thought I was going to break at any time is such a come down from an event that’s supposed to bring professionals together. You did so much better years ago when you had multiple food choices and almost no lines; what happened?

I hope those that exhibited felt like they got their money’s worth. As I said, it was better than last year, but it can be so much more.

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