Are Trade Shows Dead?

I read on Twitter that Trade Shows are Dead.

Gordon Haff from CNET news wrote how technology has made many Trade Shows irrelevant. You can see the article here. It’s a good article and has some solid arguments. But I disagree.

Scobleizer blogs that Social Networking has also killed, or at least wounded Trade Shows. But I disagree.

Of course I would think that. I make money consulting to Trade Shows and companies that exhibit at them. Let’s look a little further, beyond the initial cynical reaction.

I think that Trade Shows as we knew them maybe dead, but not completely dead. Trade Shows are an incredibly expensive exercise. Floor space, booth costs, staff costs, promotional items, pre-event marketing, post-event follow up and opportunity costs can total to staggering amounts. Naturally, senior executives are considering ROI numbers and asking is it worth it.

Are Trade Shows Worth It?

The answer is a definite maybe. So many companies are not smart about their Trade Shows. They hemorrhage money for little return. Their booths are way over the top in an effort to be “the best”, their give aways are ridiculously expensive and not aligned with their message, they do not qualify prospects, they have the wrong people on the stand, they don’t followup effectively but worst of all, they have no idea why they are really there at the show. Naturally the ROI numbers are not there.

Trade Shows are speed dating for your customers. Your target market is walking up to you and saying “sell your stuff to me”. Prospects go to willingly buy from you, or at least do further research on your products/services and your direct competitors. A smart operator will make a Trade Show pay off big time. It is knowing why you are there, doing the pre-event marketing to get your prospects and clients in, having the right people in the booth with the relevant training about what they are to do, qualifying your prospects (even have them tiered), creating a buzz at the booth to get people in, following up within two days and then having a post-event review to look at what can be improved next time.

A smart operator will also realise while their competition is pulling out of shows, they will have a bigger market share. If they work the

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show well, their ROI can be increased.

Social Networking and Trade Shows

Social networking and technology in general has had a significant impact on Trade Shows.

Webcasts, Teleconferences, Viral Videos and many other forms of technology now mean that messages once given at these shows, can now be delivered far more effectively. As Haff says, companies like Apple have an easy access to the market place via their stores so you can touch and feel the product without the hustle bustle of the show.

Social networking also increases the buzz. Look at Twitter. Whenever their is a show on, blow by blow descriptions of presentations, booths, exhibitors and even the people attending are posted with pictures for all to see. This then attracts those thinking “is it worth it this year.”

It’s not Dead, it’s Resting

In the words of Monty Python, the Trade Show is not dead, it’s resting. It’s format is tired. The old way doesn’t work. Once the Trade Show does a bit of navel gazing, you will find the invigorated New and Improved version!!

The technology will never replace the face to face meetings of clients, colleagues, customers, suppliers and random interactions that you have at a Trade Show. But the technology of having virtual trade shows, webcast product launches and announcements, blogging latest releases and other forms of social media to interact with “your herd” mean that there will be an integration of this technology with the traditional Trade Show.

I look forward to it.

I look forward to the continual evolution of this market place. But some things will never change. The need for planning, setting KPI’s, knowing how ROI will be measured BEFORE the show/marketing activity, having the right people in the right place at the right time, pre-event marketing, post-event followup and the role that the senior management team have in the event.

The intent is the same, but the execution will be different. Face to face, technology to technology or just watching it all happen on your PDA.

I am looking forward to it immensely.

Warwick Merry
The Get More Guy

2 thoughts on “Are Trade Shows Dead?

  1. Thanks for the long “response.”

    I’m actually not sure we disagree about a whole lot–at least at a general level.

    For one thing, I was probably a bit too clever in my title which intended to refer to the fact that people have been predicting the trade show’s demise for a long time and it hasn’t happened. I certainly don’t expect them to go away even if some of the more bloated and less-focused examples do in the usual cycle of such things.

    I also agree that there’s more value when participation is for a structured reason. You have no idea how many sales calls I get after trade shows even though I attend on a Press or Analyst badge. I don’t know where the problem is but someone’s lead generation systems aren’t capturing or acting on relevant information.

    And, finally, I wholly endorse all the 1:1 meeting and mingling that goes on. I just think that there are often better ways to do it than those that require the services of the union potted plant guy at some big convention center and shipping around lots of hardware that doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

  2. I don’t think tradeshows are dead. They may be evolving, but like climate change the initial moves are going to be quite slow and it could be decades before we recognize that things have changed.

    Nothing replaces face-to-face meetings, shaking hands, having dinner and drinks, doing business in person. A tradeshow still is a very effective use of marketing dollars *IF* they’re properly planning and executed. Unfortunately that’s a big IF for many companies.

    We may see moves to virtual tradeshows but most people still like to show up and do business in person.

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