Why do trade shows even exist anymore? In an age of technology which makes live face-to-face conferencing and events via the internet accessible to all, why bother exhibiting at or attending trade shows?
On the face of it, as BETA approaches, it’s a very valid question, so what’s the answer?
A quick internet search throws up some very large numbers – did anyone know that the value of the UK exhibition and trade fair market in 2015 was over £19 billion. Just so we’re clear – that’s not a typo it’s £19 BILLION. That’s Brexit numbers.
So are the marketing departments and organisations pledging themselves to this colossal budget commitment, just doing it out of hope? Of course they’re not. They’re doing it because it works. They feel that despite all the costs (stand space, stand graphics, staffing costs, accommodation, transport, marketing materials etc. etc. etc. the list goes on), they get a great return on a lot of investment.
And for all the talk of falling footfall; 13 million people attended a trade show in the UK in 2015. For context, the population of London is about 9 million. So why do that many hard-headed business-folk leave the comfort of their offices and head off to the likes of the NEC each year?
Firstly, and we think the most important reason, is that it’s physical and personal – you get to meet people; to look into their eyes and shake their hands – we all know how much relationships really matter in business and meeting someone is crucial in developing a level of trust, both with them and with their company.
Whilst you’re evaluating people and their businesses, you also get to evaluate products – to take a look at what’s new or what’s been changed and improved and crucially, to feel and to handle it. As a bonus, the vendor gets to tell you all about it and point out the features and benefits to you, whilst you’re there. Of course, you might get to see a rep at some point, but we all know how infrequent that has become, replaced by emails, phone conversations and on-line ordering.
Everyone who attends BETA has made a financial and time commitment, exhibitors and visitors alike. That commitment breeds a sense of shared objectives. The exhibitors have spent serious money and the audience has made the effort to attend. Often travelling many miles to get there in the middle of winter for a reason and that reason is a simple one – people have come to do business.
Of course there still will always be the perennial tyre kickers, but trade show audiences are much more about quality than quantity these days and the reduction in day-trippers means that exhibitors and attendees actually get to spend more time with each other, without the distraction of too many time-wasters drifting onto the stand.
It is also important to note how technological innovation has driven the impact of trade shows, over the last few years and has made the trade show environment much more appealing to the visitor. Broader mass market developments such as flat-screen TVs have made AV presentations cost-accessible to almost all companies.
The requirements of exhibitors and visitors for full connectivity have driven the provision of improved IT and internet services, which allows exhibitors to access and present information to visitors from literally anywhere in the world. Equally importantly, it has given visitors the opportunity to stay in touch with the mother-ship whilst they are attending the show. Although event venues do need to have a little think about prices and options for the supply of hard-wired internet access to stand-holders.
Event organisers have been quick to cotton on to the fact that social media offers a great opportunity to promote the event and to create a buzz around the event, it also gives exhibitors the chance to piggy-back the organisers efforts and promote attendance to their own audience, creating a win-win for everyone.
So if you’re reading this and thinking, “Is it worth going to BETA this year?” – the short answer is yes, of course it is.
We’ll be at BETA waiving the PressPoint flag – if you’ve enjoyed reading these ‘A view from PressPoint” features over the last year or so, drop by our stand and say ‘Hi’, or if you think we’ve been spouting a load of old nonsense, drop by and tell us how we might improve. It’s a trade show and we’re going there so we can meet people, listen to them and do business with them. You can’t beat BETA.