Monday, May 18, 2009

The state of exhibiting in today's economy

In discussing with colleagues on what is going on in the trade show industry these days, I have discovered some very interesting and surprising information:

First of all, obviously, companies are pulling out from exhibiting at trade shows these days. Knowing the payoffs that companies make from a successful trade show program, I think that it is a big mistake on their part. Too many times, companies only look at the outgoing costs and really do not consider the Return On Investment (ROI). Trade shows STILL are the best marketing tool that your company can do!!!

The next thing that we are seeing is that companies are scaling back on the size and complexity of their exhibit. This is fine since being in the industry, there really are a lot of exorbitant costs that companies are looking to cut or reduce. You can still have a nice looking display and present you product or service in a lower cost display. Everyone from exhibitors to attendees would expect that in today's business climate.

The big misnomer out there is that you read that attendance at trade shows is down 20% - 30%. Here's the big misunderstanding - while that number is correct, ROI is actually up!!! More business is being signed at trade shows in the past year!!! Here's why:

In the past, companies would send sales people, office staff, etc to the shows. On the show floor, those working the booth are meeting a lot of people but most of them are just 'kicking tires'. That takes up a lot of time for the booth staff, makes them unnecessarily busy and, therefore, business is not getting signed because they are too busy with everyone else and not getting to have a one-on-one with the decision makers.

Now, where attendance is down, companies are now only sending the CEO's of decision makers. There are less 'tire kickers' which frees up the booth staff so they are able to have more important meetings that are resulting in signed orders.

So, where overall traffic is down, it is good to see that business is still being signed.

(Craig Mlasko is the owner of The Works Displays & Exhibits in San Jose, CA)

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