September 7, 2021
A thought-provoking article appeared on the Trade Show News Network’s website recently entitled PLEASE STOP ASKING IF ATTENDANCE ‘WAS DOWN’ AT SHOWS RUNNING RIGHT NOW. The article suggests that instead of asking show organizers how many attendees and exhibitors were at the show, we should ask instead, “What was the energy on the show floor? Was business getting done?”
There’s an old saying: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
This got us thinking about opportunity and remaining positive, even in a pandemic. We know the event landscape has changed. And for a while, in terms of in-person trade shows, we lost valuable face-to-face opportunities important in developing relationships, connecting with clients, and obtaining leads. Enter stage left, virtual events – which event professionals transitioned to quickly. These new skills will serve us well going forward and supplement in-person events in important ways. However, while virtual events have generally provided marketing value, exhibitors have indicated that live events offer a more robust experience for not only the attendees, but also the brands.
According to research conducted by Exhibitor Magazine in March, which included 2,000 survey respondents from corporate exhibit and marketing managers responsible for trade show programs, the future was looking up.
Along came the variants. While there are companies that have decided to pull out of exhibiting or postpone planning, many more are forging ahead. Just look at the number of trade shows scheduled for the rest of the year and beyond in the US and around the world from Exhibitor Magazine.
For companies returning to in-person trade shows, there are many positive opportunities that, based on experiences with our clients, should be heralded. Although anecdotal, the following are representative comments from booth staffers from a combination of exhibits we’ve produced, managed, or assisted with so far in 2021:
It sure was great to be back! There was huge value to being here in person – creating business, meeting our customers, and prospecting new leads. (World of Concrete 2021)
It was important for me to work the booth because people saw how our product looks, and how well-built and functional it is firsthand. The quality of interaction with visitors was amazing. After so much time off from seeing people, the personal connection was much appreciated. I’ve been coming to this show for a decade. I always pick up new customers and reconnect with current ones. The opportunity to talk with attendees about products and services was invaluable. (World of Concrete 2021)
I made a lot of contacts with people that need our product within three months! I can’t put a price on the number of relationships I made at this show. (International Security Conference West 2021)
You never know if you’re going to meet someone with small product needs, or the owner and purchaser for one of the largest companies in the country. This is a unique value in meeting in person and I’m thankful to be back. (International Roofing Expo 2021)
Attendees were enthusiastic to be meeting in person again and engaged by a knowledgeable and helpful crew! Our team generated 252 qualified leads. (VMX Veterinary Conference 2021)
We increased leads at this expo over 2019 (pre-COVID) by 12.71 percent! (Florida Tow Show 2021)
We could list dozens more comments we’ve documented detailing the enthusiasm about meeting in person and the selling opportunities that result. A few themes have emerged from our interviews with people on the ground:
- Business is getting done and the quality of the leads are excellent. In fact, Mary Kemmer, CTSM and TPG Operations Manager, who is responsible for much of our post-show reporting and data analysis says:
- Staffers have more time to talk one-on-one with prospects and strengthen relationships with current customers.
- Exhibitors have missed the free-flowing exchange of ideas and networking.
- People taking the time to travel and attend a trade show are serious about being there. There are less looky-loos and more motivated prospects.
- The word is tactile! Nothing takes the place of seeing, touching and experiencing a product up close and personal. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated.
- Although COVID-19 may not be going anywhere soon, after a year and a half of not meeting face-to-face, there is a lot of desire and excitement to get back to some semblance of normalcy. And most exhibitors and staff are more than willing to abide by the safety requirements to do so.
We’re not the first to point out that trade shows came back slowly after 9/11. But comeback they did! After all, humans are social. We thrive on being together. Businesses want to get back to attending events and they want to do so with a safe framework in place. In addition to general health and hygiene standards, more trade shows are reinstating mask mandates, and/or requiring proof of vaccination. These measures may propel event managers to feel comfortable moving forward with their exhibit plans. Here is some interesting data: According to brand-new research findings from a partnership between Freeman and Epistemix, a computational modeling software company: In-person business event participants are more likely to be vaccinated, reflecting a vaccination rate above 80 percent. Additionally, 90 percent are not opposed to additional health and safety protocols to enable them to gather safely.
Yes, opportunity still knocks for exhibitors at trade shows. We hear it from our clients frequently and much of our data supports it. So, going back to the quote at the beginning of this article, if you decide to exhibit at a trade show, build the door, then walk through it.
No matter whether virtual or physical, our strategy and creative teams get the ideas flowing to elevate your brand experience and deliver measurable results. Let’s create something wonderful together. Contact us!
Related: Reflections on the World of Concrete