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Ottawa's LGX Demonstrates Community Evolution
Annual spring kick-off sees more consumer confidence

Derek  Brown
Capital Xtra! Advertising Coordinator Derek Brown
About 800 local consumers and browsers attended this year's Lesbian and Gay Expo.  Exhibitors described a genuinely interested crowd with attendees relatively more prepared to consider purchasing.

The annual Ottawa area trade show, produced by Capital Xtra!  for gay and gay-positive businesses seeking to promote their products and services to the Community, took place Saturday April 29th at the Jack Purcell Community Centre downtown.

Some seventy exhibitors displayed products, presented brochures describing their services, and spoke to Expo attendees throughout the day.  The show's welcoming atmosphere and booth layout kept would-be buyers moving and querying exhibitors about exactly what they had to offer.

"It shows the Community that there are gay and gay-friendly businesses in Ottawa ... and gives these businesses the opportunity to meet the gay and lesbian Community themselves," said Derek Brown, Capital Xtra! advertising coordinator, of the event.  He described new Expo exhibitors this year - businesses who haven't advertised in Ottawa's gay and lesbian monthly newspaper before.

Patrick Smith
"It's great," declared exhibitor Patrick Smith of Coldwell-Banker Rhodes real estate.  "It's definitely proven to be successful," he said of the show's effect on his brokerage, announcing that the mayor's photo had been taken earlier in front of his booth.  "We've signed up clients and distributed lots of information.  It's a great visible avenue and venue to reach people in the city."

Exhibitor Diane Harras agreed.  "I'm still getting business from last year's event, through referrals from [attendees then].  This becomes for me a priority on my list on an annual basis," added the Personal Financial Planner with Investor's Group who wished to thank the staff at Capital Xtra! for "all the work that they put in and the support that they've given us."

Diane Harras
Ms. Harras did some work herself in signing up early as an exhibitor in order to obtain prime floor space.  She was not the only financial planner there.

And 'doing' a trade show is hard work in itself!  Corporate Canada pays big bucks for talented people to staff their booths at such events.

"Narrators and Commentators get paid over $100 an hour," said Sheila Wong of BBW International in Toronto, an exposition staff agency.  She described the backgrounds of such professionals as including acting and public speaking.

Marcel Ethier of MJE Orthotherapy Clinic.
The clinic's web site offers a Q&A form and virtual scheduling.
"Booth Assistants are available for $25 an hour," continued Ms. Wong, who said backgrounds in marketing are generally the case with that category of contractors.  Their role is typically to prospect out but not close the sale.  The critical competence in trade show staff is public relations, not marketing, declared Ms. Wong.

By mid-afternoon some exhibitors were sitting down.  Others, however, kept going with smiles, laughter and congenial "Hello's" to engage the passing attendees.  Even the normally serious AIDS Committee of Ottawa board chair Brad Buxton was absolutely bubbly as he promoted that agency's upcoming flagship fundraiser The Stage for AIDS 5.

The day included a series of seminars this year as well, including titles of 'Buying A Home From Start To Finish,' 'Legal Issues For Gays & Lesbians,' and 'Promoting Your Community Group.'

Jerry Goudreault
The first two were presented by LGX's main sponsors:  Jerry Goudreault and Pam Roy, sales representatives with real estate firm Coldwell Banker; and Ted Mann of (The law offices of) Mann & Associates, respectively.

The third was presented by Capital Xtra Publisher and Editor-In-Chief Brandon Matheson.  Valuable advice - from an organization with arguably the most extensive set of relationships in the city's Community - made available to voluntary sector exhibitors who were also present as well as attendees from community groups.

'Proud Community Partners'

It's all part of a program where local business joins Capital Xtra! in helping it put on community events.

Rosemary Randell
Rosemary, who paints & teaches, said LGX is "good for business."
"It's to help cover costs," said Mr. Brown of the sponsorship program.  He explained that in exchange for a nominal fee sponsors of LGX were given prominence with both articles in the newspaper and booth location.

Exhibitors were not charged a booth fee, either.  "[There's] no cost but their time," stated Mr. Brown.  And that's another valuable benefit of the 'Proud Community Partners' program.  Normally, booth fees at trade shows can be expensive.

"A table top went for $445," said Christopher of Community Marketing Inc., the San Francisco-based gay travel marketing firm which organized last month's 8th International Gay & Lesbian World Travel Expo in New York City.  "Prices went up from there," he added.

Kim Meechan & Sharman Potechin of Out Stuff
That trade show's exhibitors included Air Canada and Quebec's tourism ministry.  Ninety exhibitors and 2000 attendees participated.  Admission was $5.

"It's not so much the numbers that show up that's important, it's the fact that we're here and that we're doing it - that's important," said LGX co-sponsor Ted Mann.  "It creates the environment of a business community that's prepared to meet the needs of the gay and lesbian community.  That's the really, really important message that's being given by this event," he concluded.