• Wiring the Most Out of a Trade Show

    Lobby of Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York

    Photograph by Jeff Greenberg

    Lobby of Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York

    Despite repeated rumors of their demise over the past decade, industry trade shows are alive and well. After “completely falling off the cliff” in 2008, the $100 billion trade show industry has been growing nearly 3 percent over the past 18 months, says Steven Hacker, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events in Dallas. Beyond the obvious networking, learning, and sales opportunities, trade shows can also be an excellent place to launch a new company or product, Hacker says. I spoke to him recently for tips on how entrepreneurs can identify the right shows to attend and get the most out of them. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow.

    After 9/11, and then again during the financial crisis, many people predicted that professional conventions and industry trade shows would become obsolete, replaced by videoconferencing and Web events. Has that happened?

    The Internet is not doing anything at all to displace face-to-face events. In fact, demand for face-to-face is growing as a result of the Internet facilitating transactions and opportunities, and extending the show’s reach before and after it occurs. We do get overreactions to terrible shocks and bad news, but people will always have the need to explore, travel, and meet others in person. That’s just the way the human mind works. I might buy chew sticks for my dog or birdseed online, but I’m not going to buy a $12 million piece of heavy equipment on the Internet.

    There are virtual trade shows, but no one’s been able to figure out how to monetize them. They are not easy to do, and they require an awful lot of technology and human resources to pull off, so organizers are still struggling to come up with ways to cover that kind of expense.

    Have trade shows recovered from the financial crisis and recession?

    You can’t really say how the industry is doing as a whole because you have to look at specific industries within the exhibition space. If you were to take a look at the typical home construction event today, it’s not doing very well. Why should it? Nobody’s building homes to speak of. The national automobile dealers events are literally half the size they were five years ago.

    But you look at the energy space, especially alternative energy like wind and solar, and they are drawing 20,000 to 30,000 attendees at shows that are not even five years old. We measure metrics across 14 different industry sectors and we track 10,000 events in the U.S., including 7,000 professional events and 3,000 public events that draw between 20 and 30 million consumers annually. We are forecasting overall growth of 2.9 percent this year and 3 percent in 2013.

    What do you tell would-be entrepreneurs about the best way to find a trade show and get the most out of attending?

    It’s important to set objectives first. Too many people go to these events without knowing what they want to get out of them, and the results they achieve are disappointing. It is easy to find online directories that list upcoming events by date, by industry, by show type, by region, and other specifics. Look into the details: If you want to do art photography, don’t waste time and money going to a wedding photographers’ show or a photojournalism event.

    Next, find out who the exhibitors are, look at the floor plan online, and put together a daily agenda for which exhibitors you want to talk to and when. There can be hundreds of exhibits at big shows, so you don’t want to run around helter-skelter trying to find booths. The real benefit is that you have a very efficient platform that aggregates all these people with similar interests under one roof, and they typically have the same broad objectives as the attendees. So you don’t have to fly around the country talking to 15 or 20 different companies about carrying their products or selling them yours.

    Aside from networking and selling, what other benefits do shows offer entrepreneurs?

    Many shows have speakers and educational offerings, including workshops on how to start your own business in the industry or how to improve your sales. They are vetted by the show organizer, who wants to offer value to exhibitors and attendees so they’ll achieve their objectives and come back. They profit over time by retaining as many people as possible.

    Source link: http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2012-04-12/wring-the-most-out-of-a-trade-show#p1

  • The Rumors of Our Industry’s Death have been Greatly Exaggerated

    The Walking, Talking, Exhibiting Dead: A Response from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events

    In his 25 January CBS MoneyWatch article, Michael Hess discusses “10 trade show traps” and argues that for many companies, trade shows don’t provide an identifiable return on the time and money invested. Days later, Matt Burns published a February 1 TechCrunch headline reading “The Trade Show is Dead,” citing Samsung’s decision not to launch its Galaxy S II successor at the upcoming Mobile World Congress.

    In a sense, they are both right. Like most tools of business that have been around for decades, the “trade show” in its historical definition, is an artifact, much like the “car phone,” the “door-to-door salesman,” and the communal “coffee pot.” Any business staple with staying power finds itself declared “over” at some point, and from the ashes rise the smartphone, the road warrior and the cappuccino/espresso machine.

    So, if the terminology is outdated, fine, but the spirit of the trade show is alive and well. For the past five years, despite a troubled economy, the face-to-face event industry has seen steady growth and no shortage of success stories from both exhibitors and attendees.

    The trick, as Hess alludes to, and as Burns demonstrates, is doing face-to-face marketing in the right way to meet individual business objectives. Product launches, industry education, competitive research and networking – they all have their place at face-to-face events, and as an industry, we have long advised participants to think carefully about their goals to avoid the “traps” Hess warns about.

    The evolution of the “trade show” has come a long way from the days of static booths stocked with brochures and product demonstrations. In a business environment overrun with messages and information coming from all directions, face-to-face events offer one of the few designated opportunities for those with a shared business interest to make eye contact, shake hands, and really know the people behind the product, the service, the business.

    Face-to-face events can be an especially beneficial tactic for small businesses struggling to be seen and heard above the endless marketing noise (and seemingly endless marketing budgets) of large industry players, and despite Hess’ assertion that participants will “pay to see people you’ll see anyway,” 77 percent of executive decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended, according to a recent study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).

    Face-to-face events, whether they are major industry gatherings like the Mobile World Congress, or smaller affairs like the one Samsung will host to launch the Galaxy S II successor, present a unique opportunity that cannot be replaced by instant messages, conference calls or emails, and eye contact and handshakes are two business staples that will never go out of style.

    I invite Hess and Burns to let me accompany them on their next face-to-face event adventure; maybe theyhave been doing things wrong. Either way, the rumors of our industry’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

    Sincerely, Steven Hacker, CAE, FASAE President, International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)

    Source Links: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505143_162-57360522/10-trade-show-traps/

    http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/01/the-trade-show-is-dead-samsung-not-launching-galaxy-s-ii-successorat-mwc/

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