Hosted Buyer Programs – The New Model for Trade Shows?

Guest Author |

aibtm card placed on top of a butler tray  Have you ever had this happen to you while exhibiting at a trade show? For the first two hours you have great foot traffic to your booth and get some amazing qualified leads. Then, the foot traffic starts to die. It becomes more and more difficult to meet the right people, the ones you want to do business with. You are there to make connections and if you can’t find the right people to connect with, it’s pointless. You’re at the show to bring back leads, not waste your time.

However, hosted buyer trade shows bring buyers and sellers together through pre-arranged appointments with buyers who actually have an interest in your product or service and have asked to meet with you!

As the pioneers of the hosted buyer trade show model, Reed Exhibitions are a great resource to learn all about the hosted buyer format. Exhibition Director for AIBTM (The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition) Michael Lyons gives us an inside look at how the program works and what you need to do to be successful.

The notion of hosted buyer is steadily building buzz in the U.S.

Imported from Europe, a hosted buyer program is a business vehicle that brings qualified meeting buyers and sellers together with a high likelihood to book real business with each other through pre-arranged face-to-face meetings at the show. “Hosted,” simply means that the show organizer picks up the cost of travel and hotel expenses if the buyer is qualified and has been accepted into the program.

Craig Moyes, Portfolio Director, Meetings and Events for Reed Travel Exhibitions, describes hosted buyer programs as, “a significant part of the evolution of the meetings market.”

Though the hosted buyer concept has been around overseas for many years, its introduction into the U.S. meetings market didn’t start until 2011, when AIBTM was launched in Baltimore. AIBTM’s Hosted Buyer format quickly established itself as a popular alternative to the traditional trade show model, and has since been adopted by other meeting groups.

“Now, more than ever, ROI in time and money is paramount,” said Moyes. “The hosted buyer program provides highly efficient face time for business to happen.

“In the past, exhibitors who did not prepare properly, and as a result didn’t get the anticipated business leads, would blame the show. But the hosted buyer model guarantees that each exhibitor will have appointments and thus justify their investment.”

Small companies that exhibit can also benefit because it allows them to attend the show and get solid leads where they might not otherwise in the past due to budget constraints.

Participants are required to fulfill eight appointments per day over the two days of the trade show, which still allows five free hours each day to walk the show floor. The planners also take advantage of CEU-accredited education sessions fueled by MPI, PCMA and others, and enjoy a number of daytime and evening networking opportunities. All in all, the entire experience for the buyer meets all of their needs—business, education and networking.

Hosted Buyers

Meeting professionals who plan multiple meetings a year are encouraged to apply to be a hosted buyer. They must go through a qualification processconsisting of questions related to the amount, type and size of meetings they conduct. Their application is reviewed by an outside consultant to determine whether or not they are accepted as a hosted buyer.

Hosted Buyer Benefits for AIBTM include: (Similar benefits for other Hosted Buyer shows as well)

  • A personal itinerary of appointments with your choice of over hundreds of exhibiting companies. No time wasted meeting with exhibitors that don't fit your business needs!
  • Admittance to exclusive AIBTM networking functions and events including exhibitor events and dedicated Hosted Buyer networking.
  • Dedicated educational sessions for Hosted Buyers that will expand skills, knowledge and earn CEU credits.
  • Complimentary air or rail travel - depending on your location to make your travel experience as convenient and time efficient as possible.
  • Accommodation at top hotels.
  • Access to the Hosted Buyer lounge on the show floor with refreshments and snacks throughout the day.
  • AIBTM pre and post event tours of first-class cities and hotels.

Hosted Buyers are required to:

  • Actively participate in the Pre-Scheduled Appointment Program.
  • Attend 8 pre-scheduled appointments per each day of attendance.
  • Attend two Destination/Hotel Presentations at the Exhibition.
  • Attend all educational and networking sessions scheduled by the Show Team.


Once your Hosted Buyers are registered and set up, it is all about the exhibitor. Yes, you have a packed schedule with qualified meetings. But you need to know how to make those meetings successful. Hosted Buyers give you the leads, now you need to seal the deal. Here are the three biggest tips to be a successful exhibitor:

1. Be prepared. Once you get the list of buyers who have asked to meet with you, do your homework and research their needs. Reach out to them before the show and let them know you are looking forward to meeting them.

2. When they arrive at the booth, be ready for them. Don’t keep them waiting. They have 20 minutes to meet with you. If they have to wait, they feel unimportant and you are losing valuable time with them.

3. Follow up! Immediately after the show – within 48 hours – send them a follow up: what was discussed or agreed to, information they requested, or an RFP for their next piece of business.

In conclusion, Hosted Buyer programs will continue to grow as their popularity increases due to strong ROI and the efficiencies built into the model. As a supplier, this format alleviates a lot of the uncertainty at a trade show about whom and how many planners will stop by the booth to do business. For planners, time is respected by allowing them to meet with suppliers that they truly have business for and they save time and money by seeing multiple suppliers in a short period of time, while the expenses are covered by the show.

Now if you still aren't convinced, here are a few advantages for both parties!


  1. Buyers prequalified
  2. Schedule arranged through matching software
  3. Alternative to traditional trade shows where buyers are approached as they walk by
  4. Knowing which meetings are scheduled ahead of time helps to prepare
  5. Education and networking opportunities


  1. One stop shop: exposure to multiple destinations/venues in short period of time
  2. Minimal commitment with little or no cost
  3. No registration cost
  4. Customized schedule  arranged through software
  5. Education and networking opportunities


Michael Lyons, Exhibition Director for Reed Travel Exhibitions

Michael Lyons, Exhibition Director for Reed Travel Exhibitions

Michael Lyons is Exhibition Director for Reed Travel Exhibitions, responsible for the management of AIBTM (The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition) taking place June 10-12, 2014 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Mike is a highly respected veteran of the meetings/travel industry. His diverse background, covering 40 years, includes senior level posts with some of the industry’s best known names including Carlson Wagonlit Travel, EGR International and McGettigan Partners (now Maritz). He was also the President and CEO of Global Events Partners, Philadelphia, the premier Destination Management Company (DMC) in the greater Philadelphia region which he co-founded and ran from 2002 through 2009.

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