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The Question We are All Asking Ourselves …

WTF future of trade shows

Dear Face to Face Marketing Pro. I think we are all asking ourselves the same question. WTF? WTF does NOT mean what you may think. WTF is What’s The Future? And in this specific case what is the future for Face to Face Marketing.

You are going to a show somewhere. You will book a room through airBnB, the biggest hotel company in the world which does not own a single building. You will transport yourself to and from the venue by Uber, the biggest taxi company which does not own a car. You will share all your findings on Facebook, the biggest media company which has never written an article. You will socially be with all the people at the show, but you will also be on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like, AT THE SAME TIME, because today, we think it is absolutely normal to be with people that way, on multiple platforms, not missing a thing. The show should be given your full attention, but when you can be in Alaska, Tokyo and in the down town of your home city, as well as real time up to date on how to make champagne gratinated oysters and your best friend’s deep sea diving endeavors in South Africa you will of course do so. Why? Because you can, it is who and what we are, it is what gives us our identity. We program our lives and how we want to be seen by others and yes, we are definitely seen by others and on totally different channels than just a few years back. If you are wondering why the heck I talk about this, it is simply because this is one way of describing who you will be doing business with tomorrow…

You are now, without thinking about it for two seconds, part of the shared economy AND supporting the further and very rapid development of exponential organizations. THIS is how fast it goes. In the good old days we were informed that a “change” would be coming, we thought about it, we adapted to it and then, quite consciously, took it in. Today we just DO. It is so natural and the whole thing is right there in front of us.

Now, allow me to ask my favorite question once more. Will the way we meet face to face at trade shows, exhibitions and other types of events change? No? Yes? Has it perhaps changed already? The thing is; IT won’t change, WE will. The rules are being changed as we speak. Some of us see it, some of us don’t. Some lead the process, some follow…and that’s the way it has always been. For me, it is about how YOU see it. For some years now we have discussed how to measure ROI and without ever really finding the holy-grail-answer, the whole thing changed. It is not so much ROI anymore, now it is customer experience management, customer journeys, touch point analysis, emotion curves and Daniel Kahneman wisdom. Why? Well, when something doesn’t work, we fix it. Sometimes we even fix things that we did not know were broken. It is what we all do. We want maximum insight, shorter reaction time and full impact and we develop whatever tool that will get us there…because we can.

We can change the rules SO fast these days that even the trend experts out there happily inform us about the said trends on a weekly basis. I expect that trends will soon be communicated on a daily basis, which is a HUGE contradiction of terms. It will just be called something new and put on more and different types of shelves.

So, don’t worry, the future will be here in a minute and it will come to visit you as well. It will be extremely interesting to see which destinations it will take us to and even more so, which routes we will all take… One thing is certain, it will be disruptive and consequently create an unlimited amount of new opportunities… – which will, funny enough, complicate our abilities to “read the market” and something as simple as predicting the future.

And speaking of which, I asked WTF above. My own best guesses are: YES we will keep meeting in person, nothing beats that. The trade show will and should be taken out of the silo and put into a carefully planned customer journey process. Leads will no longer be the one and only parameter for measuring success, data will. Gathering, processing and fast use of data according to an overall master plan will be THE Key Performance Indicator (KPI). The show itself will, in some cases, be taken away from the big exhibition centres because exhibitors want to keep their clients, soon to be perceived as family members, to themselves. Instead we will meet in smaller groups, in more private settings, on boats, on bikes, in the mountains – whatever oozes quality and “yes, we are damn different, hence we do different…” – ON THE OTHER HAND, a lot will stay exactly the same because, even if all of the above were true and about to happen, you are way too busy to embark on that journey right now. So, bring it on, bring the future – you will get onboard when you are good and ready. Promise me one thing though, please make sure that nobody changes the rules until then :-)

Happy New Year and THANKS for your attention.

About the Author

Jakob Dyrbye is owner and creative director at Faust Dyrbye in Denmark and has over 20 years of experience in the exhibition industry. Jakob is a frequent public speaker, introducing thought-provoking ideas in order for us to change our mindset and our habits as he is a true believer in shifting our industry's focus from logistics to value creation and measurement. As Jakob says, "We need to understand that mastering Face to Face Marketing means that besides building the stage on which our clients shine, we must understand our clients' business, their needs, their clients' needs, and especially what's going on during their show, not just before and after."

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