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Are Trade Shows Becoming Extinct?

Are Tradeshows Becoming Extinct?“Aren’t trade shows going the way of the horse drawn buggy?”

This is the question I was posed with while introducing myself to some new acquaintances.  Unfortunately, it is one that is becoming all too familiar.

I grew up in the business world in the field of printing.  From my beginnings back in the late 80’s (ouch that hurts to say…) I was constantly told that printing would be gone and business would be paperless.  After Al Gore invented the internet, I heard that no one would need brochures anymore…it would all be online.  (Printing of brochures actually increased!)  Yes, printing has changed, however the industry is very much alive.

Now trade shows are falling into that same argument.  With technology and the ability to “go virtual” are trade shows becoming extinct?

Trade shows have never presented a better opportunity for an exhibitor to get in front of decision makers.

That is a bold statement, now let me give you my reasoning.

With the ups and downs that have become common place, most organizations have felt the impact.  Most organizations are not the same size as before 2008.  There are less people doing the same (or increased) amount of work.  Time has become even more precious to everyone.

Trade show attendance is up and in many cases setting new records.

What we are hearing from clients is even better: the quality of the attendees visiting trade show booths is up.  Because companies have downsized and timing is important, trade shows are seeing a higher level of decision maker walking the trade show floor.  Attendees are often working from a planned agenda.  They have a list of exhibitors’ trade show displays they want to visit and a window of time with which to do it in.  They are there because they have a need that is not currently being met.  They are there seeking solutions.  And…if they are still on the floor at closing time of any day, they are still seeking that solution!

This creates a great opportunity for the exhibitor that has properly planned to take advantage of this situation.

Planned?  Yes, PLANNED.

You cannot just purchase some space, show up and expect to reap rewards.  The difference between the group that says they are having a successful show and the group that says the show is dead, is often nothing more than executing a clearly planned strategy.

Planning begins well in advance of the show.  Set your goals for your trade show program.  Decide which shows line up to those goals.  Plan your space, your exhibit, your promotions (yes, promotions), and plan your staff and make sure they are trained.

The most startling stat from trade shows is this:  almost 80% of leads harvested from trade shows are never followed up on.  Read that again and let it sink in…

Why?  Poor planning on at least two fronts.  More than likely, the show staff was not trained on what information was important or how to relay that information to those who would follow up.  Secondly, there was probably little to no thought about post show promotion.

Trade shows are still a great vehicle for face-to-face marketing.  A virtual trade show does not do that.  Look, world leaders have had the virtual technology for years, yet when they really need to get something done, they make arrangements to meet in person.  Business is no different.  There is something about pressing the flesh that sets and confirms expectations.  It removes questions and fears.  It is real.

There is no other medium that will present the opportunity to be in front of so many qualified prospects in such as short period of time than a trade show.  However, it is planning that allows you to take full advantage of those opportunities when presented.  Is your space adequate for your goal?  Does your exhibit clearly say who you are and what you do?  Does your exhibit carry the same look, feel, and message as is expected by the brand you are building?  Have you executed a preshow promotion?  Is your show promotion in keeping with your goal?   Has your booth staff been briefed/trained on all the above?  Is the staff clear on the qualifying question, on how the exhibit experience should flow, on the information needed, and how to handle that information after the exchange?  Have you planned meetings after each day of the show?  Are you able to make changes in midstride if needed?

That list is far from complete, however a great step towards having a successful show!

Remember, a trade show promoter is promising to bring a certain type of attendee to the hall.  Everything else is up to you.  I firmly believe that any organization that approaches their trade show program with the proper planning creates an atmosphere of success in doing so.  While nothing is ever a guarantee, planning places the odds in your favor.

Are trade shows dead?  No.  They are still creating great opportunities waiting to be seized… if you are planned.

Value of Trade Shows White PaperPick up The Value Of Trade Shows to find more ways that exhibitors and attendees get significant value from exhibiting at and participating in trade shows, and expect to for many years ahead.  To get your insightful 24-page report, click here

About the Author

Shawn Lacagnina was a sales manager at Skyline Displays of Houston in Houston, Texas.

5 responses to “Are Trade Shows Becoming Extinct?

  1. Thanks, Shawn, for the passionate and informed rant on the enduring value of trade shows!

    With so much attention on electronic forms of media, some people are surprised when they find out that trade shows (number of exhibitors, exhibit space, and attendance) continue to grow. Trade shows provide so much value to both exhibitors and attendees.

    And yes, to succeed, would-be Masters Of Trade Show Marketing must plan, rather than just show up!

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