Schieferstein and Suzanne Zeppernick, National Sales Manager at the convention center, recently shared the history, benefits and successes of this niche group. What is clear is that the partnership between these groups has become a win-win for both entities.
Schieferstein and his wife, Kathy, were recruited by Kelly and Neena Collins in 2002 to work in their haunted attraction. That partnership led to their founding Midwest Haunters Convention in 2003, after another small industry event ended its run. Today, Schieferstein and Collins each have full-time jobs, while dedicating at least 20 hours per week to their convention in advance of its commencement. The founders draw a salary from the show and employ around 40 others during the convention who are compensated with admission to various events. Attendees are categorized into three groups:
Haunted Attraction Owners: Make up half of the group and are usually over age 30. Attractions are a second or side business to their primary career.
Attraction Workers: Make up a quarter of the attendees and are actors, make-up artists and set designers, typically between ages 20-30.
Enthusiasts and Home Haunters: Comprise the final quarter of attendees and are people who love Halloween and decorate their homes and yards, rivaling many professional haunts.
Schieferstein reports the past four shows have attracted attendees from 40 states, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as two Canadian provinces, and Germany and New Zealand. The primary reason for attending is to network and spend time with peers in a social atmosphere, sharing ideas and experiences.
The 42 percent group-block growth over the past five years has caused the convention center and adjoining Hyatt to take notice and fully appreciate this partnership. In 2013 the group is expected to fill 1325 guest rooms and is in the process of committing to 2015. “I have witnessed a growth trend in both attendance and room nights,” said Zeppernick. “This group definitely attracts people from all walks of life and the organizers plan well and have seen considerable growth that they have been able to manage well. These professionals have a passion for their field and we are here to help them meet their goals of planning a successful event.” Zeppernick was excited to have such an interesting and fascinating event take place at the convention center when first contacted by the founders. “I knew it would be a success based on the professionalism and detailed planning expertise of the management team,” she shared. Schieferstein appreciates those remarks and the confidence the Center has in his partner team and lists key variables to establish a trusting, professional relationship with his event partners, like the Center:
Considering the host hotel and event locations as partners in the event. Success is as dependent on them and the atmosphere they provide, as it is on anything else.
Commiting to the same locations for several years has allowed those properties to be very familiar with the event, resulting in outstanding guest and producer experiences.
Permitting both sides to make suggestions for improvement has helped make the event better each year. This familiarity, because of time and mutual respect, has allowed suggestions to be easily adopted, almost without hesitation.
Privacy of the group when simultaneous events are happening. Pay attention to noise levels, interference from other groups, ticketed functions, etc.
Event security to monitor the event, direct people and protect belongings during and after event hours.
Emergency plans, making sure producers understand the Emergency Response System in the buildings and know what to do in case of an emergency so it is responded to as quickly as possible.
Media is attracted to the uniqueness of the event and generates a lot of interest and publicity.
Success by Moments
Schieferstein is still humbled by the fact that attendees take the time out of their lives, and use vacation time, to come to an event he helps produce. It is this awareness that keeps him and his partners motivated to continuously improve the event experience for guests. As he reflects on the past decade, Schieferstein identifies stand-out moments by category.
Greatest Challenge: Learning about the event industry and organizing a successful event. “Prior to our first show, the four of us had no experience in producing an event. The learning process continues today and it has been challenging and exciting to learn about facilities, operations like registration, and even industry terminology. Early on I realized the importance of balancing the number of trade show exhibitors with the number of attendees. Too few of either group, disappoints the other.”
Biggest Achievements: There are three. First, growing the event to a point where host facilities are willing to sign multi-year contracts on requested dates. Second, having over 100 exhibitors in 2012 and attendance to support a trade show of this size. The first year’s show had 30 exhibitors and 300 attendees. Third, generating enough revenue in 2012 to justify the amount of time and work all four partners dedicate to the event.
Sleepless Nights: Commitments made with regards to contracts, specifically guest room blocks and whether or not they will be filled.
“Oh My” Moment: Having a trade show floor that was not set up to producer standards and turning it overnight so vendors could move in early the next morning. Each show has one of these moments but over time they become less stressful due to experience and methods of dealing with them.
Schieferstein knows a decade’s worth of experience is invaluable as is choosing the right business and event partners that contribute to growth and success. “The one thing I want to accomplish at each event is to do everything within my power to ensure that each stakeholder comes out of the weekend with a positive experience,” he shared. “This not only includes our guests and our exhibitors but also the facilities. By going into each convention with this approach and goal, the stage is set for what is expected to be a successful future for Midwest Haunter’s Conventions.”
More information: http://www.midwesthauntersconvention.com/
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. -Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven
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