Police Fleet Expo hits the sweet spot in Richmond, Va.

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Police Fleet Expo hits the sweet spot in Richmond, Va.

By Blair Potter | Oct 7, 2021

Lisa McDade was ecstatic about the return of the Police Fleet Expo. Like so many events, the expo was canceled in 2020 before returning to the Greater Richmond (Va.) Convention Center last month.

“It was a bit challenging to plan the expo with the ever-changing mandates, staffing shortages and concern for what the landscape might look like as August approached,” says McDade, trade show director for the Police Fleet Expo, which caters to fleet managers and decision makers in the law enforcement industry from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“Our attendance suffered somewhat as we lost approximately 15 exhibitors for various reasons (corporate travel restrictions, budgets, border issues, etc.). Many attendees cancelled as well, but we were also able to pick up more attendees as the show got closer.”

“Exhibitor feedback while still onsite was overwhelmingly positive, and our post-show surveys support this as well.”

She says that while overall attendance was down from the previous show in 2019, expo organizers and exhibitors were thrilled with the final numbers.

“We believe we hit that sweet spot of timing, as we’ve since seen other shows get cancelled or postponed,” McDade says. “It had been two years since our last show, and we were all eager to reconnect in Richmond. It was a long two years as we watched the events industry collapse. We are ecstatic to have been able to hold the expo this year.”

She says positive feedback is key to measuring success for the expo.
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“Exhibitor feedback while still onsite was overwhelmingly positive, and our post-show surveys support this as well,” she says. “Attendee feedback is equally important, as we build the show for them, our target audience.”

McDade says that success was also partially driven by hosting the event in Richmond.

“The location served us well, as the southeast region is still learning about our show,” she says. “We also liked the proximity to Washington, D.C., and the federal agencies headquartered in the area. We knew that the Virginia State Police Driver Training Complex in Blackstone would be a great venue for our Ride & Drive Event. It is designed for events exactly like ours and our group thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Richmond is ready

Matt Robinette, vice president of visitor experience for Richmond Region Tourism, says two large gatherings recently held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center clearly showed that safe participation in business events is possible.

“Event planners were pleased with the efforts by the venue to protect their participants. More than 1,300 participants from the U.S. and Europe safely met, networked, attended education sessions, hosted sponsor events, enjoyed dine-in and takeout experiences and arrived and departed satisfied,” he says. “The energy and enthusiasm the participants brought was noticeable, and the excitement on participants’ faces when seeing friends and colleagues proved the value of face-to-face meetings and conventions.”

Robinette says event success is predicated on communication and, increasingly, vaccination.

“The continued growth in the percentage of vaccinated people is a trend that will allow individuals, companies and corporations to travel for meetings again.”

“The Richmond region was able to safely host these events because the venues, hotels, restaurants, convention sales and services team and planner communicated often and clearly,” he says. “The continued growth in the percentage of vaccinated people is a trend that will allow individuals, companies and corporations to travel for meetings again. Mandating participant vaccination is another trend we believe event owners will implement moving forward.”

Robinette says that in order to weather the pandemic, the Richmond Region Tourism team focused on staying active and connected to partners and local stakeholders.

“In spring 2020, we launched travelsaferva.com, a microsite where visitors and planners could access the latest safety protocols and information about the region—and we continue to keep the site updated,” he says. “We also had several competitive advantages: a central location for drive-in groups throughout the Mid-Atlantic, low density, robust safety protocols, plentiful outdoor activities and a continuously updated dining website highlighting operation hours and in-person and/or takeout options available.”
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Also important, he says, were a continued investment in external media relations to help market the region nationwide, staying in touch with clients in order to maintain relationships and continuing to host events such as weddings, small business groups and approximately 55 sports tournaments leading up to the return of large business events.

Richmond Region Tourism launched a new advertising campaign in spring 2021 that encourages residents to share their favorite local experiences and attractions with friends and family.

“Find Your Moment’s goal is to remind people, when they are ready, to welcome loved ones back to visit.,” Robinette says.

PHOTOS
Police Fleet Expo 2021, Richmond, Va., courtesy Meghan McDade.
Richmond, Va., courtesy Richmond Region Tourism.

 

Author

Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).