The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the largest downstate business-to-business trade show, the Area Business Connection. In March 2002, more than 5,000 business professionals came to meet with more than 190 businesses—all under one roof—in a festive and instructive event. The Area Business Connection offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the products and services that make the Peoria area a great place to shop.

For many businesses, trade shows offer a simple and convenient way to directly target relevant buyers. Trade shows can be an incredibly effective promotional tool for small businesses. Ninety-eight percent of the 2002 Area Business Connection exhibitors said their participation was beneficial and they planned to participate again in 2003.

The 18th Annual Area Business Connection takes place March 25 and 26 at the Peoria Civic Center Exhibition Hall. Presented in conjunction with the trade show is the Power Breakfast March 26.

The events will be kicked off with the largest Business After Hours for Chamber members, exhibitors, and their guests from 5 to 8 p.m., March 25. The Business After Hours is a gathering you won’t want to miss. There will be plenty of food, beverages, music, and social networking. Bring lots of business cards to meet and greet other area professionals.

The show opens to the public at 9 a.m., March 26, following the Power Breakfast. The Power Breakfast is scheduled for 7:30 to 9 a.m. in the adjoining exhibit hall. The Breakfast features a motivational and entertaining speaker. In 2002, more than 700 attendees enjoyed the wit and humor of Dr. Robert Kriegel, a New York Times best selling author and commentator on National Public Radio’s Marketplace. At this writing, the ABC Committee is viewing demo videotapes of potential speakers for 2003. We guarantee we’ll bring you another winning presenter. Chamber members can purchase a table of 10 for $250 ($350 for non-members) and individual tickets for $25 ($35 nonmembers). Tickets will be available in early 2003.

You spoke and we listened. You wanted shorter show hours, so the show will close one hour earlier than in previous years. Show hours on March 26 will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a lot of hands-on product demonstrations, free give-a-ways, scores of door prizes, and other special activities taking place throughout the day.

Booth sales are now open to last year’s exhibitors on a first come, first served basis. After November 15, booth sales will be open to all Chamber members. Public booth sales will begin January 20.

Booths are priced on a scale based on location. “A” location booths are $575; “B” location booths are $500; and “C” location booths are $425. Booths are defined as a 10-foot by 10-foot area. Exhibits may be set up as single booth or a combination of multiple booths.

Booth competition always promotes plenty of fun and excitement. Who will have bragging rights next year? Booths that reach out and make a statement above the visual roar of neighboring booths will surely capture the attention of the judges. Winners will be judged in two categories: single booth—first, second, and third place; and multiple booths—first, second, and third place, and best of show.

I encourage you to participate in the 2003 Area Business Connection. Whether you’re an experienced trade show exhibitor or this is your first trade show, these simple tips will help you get the best return on investment from the show.

Don’t miss the fun; put March 25 and 26 on your calendar and plan to be a show exhibitor or an attendee. Don’t forget to reserve your spot at the Power Breakfast. For more information regarding exhibitor fees or Power Breakfast tickets, call 676-0755 or visit www.peoriachamber.org. IBI