This post first appeared on www.eventindustrynews.co.uk
Whether event organisers want to admit it or not, trade shows face a serious problem. Thanks to high costs and digital competition, it’s harder to sell floor space than ever before.
Organisers have to take action to retain current exhibitors and encourage new ones or risk seeing participant numbers continue to fall. As the key decision makers, they’re in the best position to do just that: Industry change needs to start at the top.
Organisers Must Initiate Change
Whether it’s selecting suppliers, finding a venue, or generating booth sales, it’s all based on the organiser’s wants. Everything involving a show’s setup flows through the organiser, yet organisers lack the data to do their jobs effectively.
Compare a trade show to a wedding. If the groomsmen go to the bar and pay one price for drinks, and the bridesmaids pay a different amount — all while the organiser thought the wedding had an open bar — something is amiss. Real-time exhibitor data is critically important, and many organisers don’t have access to it.
Organisers can’t allow suppliers and vendors to be the only ones privy to exhibitor data and expect to provide a positive experience. Having access to — and using — that information helps organisers maintain a consistent brand, provide year-to-year business continuity, and free up time to sell their own products across different revenue streams.
Provide Predictive Pricing
Exhibitors have requested predictive pricing for decades; organisers are only now offering it. They must provide better service by bundling costs such as electricity and internal drayage. By setting up a predictive cost model, it’s easier to give a real answer when an exhibitor asks, “What can I get for $10,000?”
Offer Intuitive Sponsorships
Organisers want exhibitors to spend money on sponsorships, but they often expect everyone to want one of the provided options. Instead, they need to think like a lean startup and constantly build options based on what people want. Organisers need to learn what sponsors want out of the experience (e.g., brand promotion, news coverage, etc.) to tailor a sponsorship package to their needs.
Provide TransparencyInstead, they should provide a platform — similar to Amazon Marketplace’s — so exhibitors can do everything in one spot. This provides transparency, which helps exhibitors make decisions. It also saves time, meaning they can spend more time thinking about how they’ll interact with attendees than where they’ll buy signage.
Sometimes, organisers are selling their own products and services in different revenue streams — unknowingly competing with their own vendors!
Trade shows aren’t immune to the technology boom, but many organisers have been slow to adopt some of the bigger changes. Rather than depend on legacy companies, they should look to the B2B market’s newest solutions to see how they can create a better show experience for all participants.
Re-evaluate Existing Relationships
Organisers should advocate for their exhibitors to ensure existing relationships are beneficial. They can’t let suppliers and vendors run the show simply because they’ve been around for years. Organisers need to look at the numbers to decide which relationships help the bottom line — and which they’d be better off without.
Choose Partnerships Wisely
Organisers should partner with companies that have as much to gain (and lose) as they do. If one side can make a profit without helping the other, that’s usually what will happen. Organisers must avoid fly-by-night enterprises by choosing partnerships with care.
Talk to Industry OutsidersWhen organisers consider making changes within the trade show industry, they should consider the customer experience as a sales strategy. The better the experience they provide, the more likely exhibitors will be to purchase booths again, buy sponsorships, and recommend events to colleagues. But the change has to start at the top.
Problems within any industry can become an industry of their own if no one looks outside for solutions. Organisers should talk to experiential event teams, ad agencies, and even circuses to determine what kinds of experiences they should offer their participants. Talking to people who have the same problems and the same ideas prevents innovation.