MANTS ‘committed to keeping … industry alive’
BALTIMORE — The Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, known as MANTS, will definitely be different this year, but it will go on — as the “MANTS.com Online Business Hub.”
After an awesome 50th anniversary show in January 2020 with a record number of registrations, MANTS will not be able to open in 2021 at the Baltimore Convention Center where it has been staged annually for the last 40 years.
Months ago, the exhibit hall there was converted into a State of Maryland field hospital for COVID-19 patients, and there was no guarantee the space would not still be in use, come December, in time for proper sanitizing and set-up, nor that state restrictions on large-scale indoor gatherings would be lifted.
“The health and safety of our exhibitors and attendees is our primary focus,” said Vanessa Finney, MANTS executive vice president. “While we are disappointed that we can’t meet in person, we are committed to keeping commerce within our industry alive and healthy.”
Finney added that MANTS is one of the lifeblood sources of income for its sponsors, the State Nursery and Landscape Associations of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. “Doing nothing was not an option,” she said.
A robust national print and digital advertising campaign and social media program is encouraging engagement in the MANTS.com Business Hub Jan. 6-8, 2021, but you don’t have to wait. The Hub went “live” Dec. 1 and is active now.
Once registered via the website, MANTS.com, at a cost of $10 per person, attendees have immediate access, which will continue for 90 days post-show.
Rather than have exhibitors build a booth online, as they might for a “virtual” show for which they would then sit at a computer all day waiting for someone to “walk” in, MANTS will feature profile pages for each exhibitor.
“On that page they can put as much content as they desire,” Finney said. Every company has a large text box area to load with relevant information, similar to the information under an “about” tab on a website.
A link is provided to the company’s website and exhibitors can post videos, products, press releases and show specials.
“The neatest feature, unique to what we are doing,” Finney said, “is that when attendees and exhibitors register, each self-identifies in 150 product categories relevant to the industry.
The system takes all the product matches — the checked-off boxes — and ranks them according to a scale. This takes the guess work out of who you should reach out to, whether you’re an exhibitor or attendee.”
“This way, you can search the entire database of either exhibitors or attendees or hone in on the most relevant matches that the system selects. That’s why ours is different.”
After months of online meetings, people are getting Zoom fatigue. Some don’t want to be at a computer at all, much less sitting at one for three straight days.
“This is our answer, to create a business hub, keep attendees engaged and connected, to facilitate engagement and commerce this year,” Finney said.
From the “Attendee Console,” visitors can register, then log in with a badge number that is sent in a registration confirmation email. A helpful video explains how to get the most out of your experience.
Using an interactive floor plan, if you remember where an exhibitor was located in the past, you can easily find them, with no walking. Or, using the search tab or by scrolling down the list, you can find exhibitors you are interested in. By clicking on the star to the left of the company name, you create a “My Exhibitors” list of companies to come back to later.
A “Recommendations” tab will take you to a list of exhibitors that the system has matched you with, based on your attendee profile. Icons on the exhibitor list indicate whether the exhibitor has updated its own profile with videos, product lists or sales items. Click on the envelope icon to send an email to an exhibitor. Using the calendar icon, you can arrange an appointment.
Individually registered attendees receive 100 Connect E-mails and 30 Connect Appointments that they can use to reach out to exhibiting companies to schedule a time for conversation during the show (Jan. 6-8).
As of early December, 540 exhibitors from all over the United States, Canada and Europe had signed up. “Usually we have 950,” Finney said, “but we are not discouraged. We are encouraged that 540 have seen value in this and support the trade show.
“We’ve gotten tremendous support. The board has been awesome in helping us navigate this new venture, and we are really optimistic about it.
“MANTS in January has meant business to the green industry for the last 50 years, and we plan to continue this tradition into 2021,” added Finney. “We invite our exhibitors and buying companies to join us in partnership to fulfill their business needs.”