Tradeshows work. They work very well. Tradeshows create millions of jobs and billions of business dollars. Read what nine industry professionals have to say about this topic.
Donna M. Shultz (pictured left), Founder & CEO, MSM Inc.
“I believe this Pandemic has actually helped us all to understand what we miss most about tradeshows and face-to-face communications.
“One of my friends, a Dentist, told me ‘I just can’t buy the products I need to move my practice forward without Tradeshows. Pre-COVID when I attended my annual show, I would be able to see everything live and compare all of the manufacturer’s products in one place and leave ready to buy. Virtual sales are just not the same.’
“Exhibitors attend tradeshows for the some of the following reasons:
1. Brand awareness and ability to represent your culture
2. Introduction of new products and services
3. Ability to have 1:1 meetings with new and existing customers
4. Competitive research
5. Develop real relationships in this face-to-face environment
“There is no comparison to selling and further developing relationships live at a tradeshow, versus virtually. Face to face builds loyalty and trust. Emotional relationships are built when in person and affect another person’s decision making. Although virtual may be more convenient, I believe in person moves relationships forward.”
Brian Yost (pictured right), COO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
“As the meetings and convention industry continues to recover, the importance of meaningful, in-person connections is more apparent than ever. The exchange of information and ideas that comes with networking at trade shows is invaluable. At the Las Vegas Convention Center and throughout the destination, we are following the most stringent health and safety precautions to ensure the success of conventions while offering our meeting organizers, exhibitors and attendees the world-class resorts, culinary experiences and entertainment that can only be found in Las Vegas.”
William Nixon (pictured left), President and CEO, Willwork Global Event Services
“Tradeshows are a fun and entertaining environment where buyers and sellers meet. Buyers want to see, touch and compare merchandise; sellers want to display new product, promote their brand, view competitors, and network face-to-face with clients and prospects.
“Tradeshows generate business … business on the show floor, and business off of it. Business for exhibiting companies, business for attendees, and business for companies servicing the industry. Willwork, and the company’s growth over the past thirty-five years, is a clear example of how well trade shows work. The company incorporated in 1986 with two goals in mind: creating work for individuals; and improving the quality of the trade show labor force in Boston. Focusing on service, attitude, and training, the company expanded I&D services nationwide, and then developed product lines for private corporate events, general contracting, audio-visual, and retail. Tradeshows create business opportunities. Tradeshows work.”
Randy Pekowski, (pictured right) President and COO at The Expo Group
“The industry interruption increased the relevance of delivering content, connections and commerce together through in-person events channel. Without executing all three, the effectiveness of a company’s marketing strategy declines. As events have restarted, we have been focused on helping our clients re-engage and reconnect with their communities and customers safely to leverage the power of personal interaction that has been temporarily absence from the market. In-person events that are designed and executed on content, connections and commerce offer the most valuable live brand experiences for participants that simply cannot be replicated online.
“Our five-step approach where we empathize, provoke, design, execute and optimize continues to serve our clients well. It’s not just a process, it’s our philosophy and it helps us maximize trade show success to design and execute on delivering on the three Cs – content, connections and commerce.
David Gibbons (pictured left), Executive Director, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority
“When attending a trade show at one of our facilities, visitors not only spend time and money in our buildings, but also throughout the region- including on hotels, restaurants, and local attractions. Trade shows are an incredibly important catalyst for economic activity for both our industry and host communities.”
Amy Sondrup, (pictured left) ED PA President, and President, Access TCA
“When live tradeshows were canceled and the only forum available to connect with our markets was virtual, we quickly noticed that nothing works like in-person experiences. Ours is a face-to-face industry, and in the past year-plus, we had to try to replicate that in-person experience for an online audience. The results were spotty: our concerns went from technical challenges—the right platform, security issues, bandwidth—to the questions of engagement and measurement.
“Those last two topics, try as we might to resolve them, demonstrate two of the key reasons trade shows work and work in a way that virtual exhibitions can never approach. First, engagement takes on many forms at trade shows–from interactive technology and theater presentations to one-on-one conversations and product presentations—and is almost impossible to achieve at the same level virtually. At the same time, measurement is an even greater challenge: because people register for an online event, there is no guarantee that they will attend. And how do you track interested attendees so that you can follow up as part of the sales continuum?
“The biggest gap our clients experienced was the lag in developing new business. Because of the spotty nature of both online engagement and measurement, following up with virtual attendees who had a real interest in products and services was tough. We’re welcoming the return of trade shows on the supplier side because jobs are coming back, and we are starting to generate revenue. But our clients are welcoming trade shows because there is no better or more cost-effective way to identify new customers, cement relationships with existing customers, and engage a targeted audience with the brand messages. So, yes, trade shows work!”
Jim Kelley, (pictured right), Vice President, Marketing & Industry Relations, Fern
“At their core, tradeshows work due to the successful merging of commerce, community, and the creation of connections. They forge and facilitate an environment where buyers and sellers who have a shared interest can come together in a way that cannot be replicated in any other medium. This environment drives commerce, which creates jobs, which helps the economy.
“The principle of shared interest is also a building block of the communities that exist at Trade Shows. The community of attendees is there with a desire to grow their business and themselves. The Trade Show environment provides learning opportunities and education that occurs both formally and informally.
“This learning and education lead to meaningful connections that continue to grow beyond the three to four days of an event, which often leads to increased commerce opportunities and strengthens the community that trade shows create.
“There is not another professional means of doing so much to grow one’s business and own self that can compete with a Trade Show.”
Scott Rudel (pictured left), President, Sho-Link, Inc.
“As an EAC company working with exhibit houses and clients directly on the show floor, I have a pretty clear understanding of why tradeshows and conventions work.
“I have watched the industry go through some significant changes, but the one constant has always been, the Trade Show allows for all our senses to be active. There is nothing stronger in marketing, than being able to physically touch, visualize, hear, and even smell a product. The opportunity to share in a live face to face uninterrupted conversation with a potential new client cannot be equaled with a virtual experience.
“Competition also plays a significant role in the success of Trade shows. Exhibiting companies understand the value of having their competitors close in proximity. It gives them a great opportunity to showcase to potential clients, what differentiates them from the others.”
Carrie Johnson, (pictured right) Vice President Strategic Accounts, Sparks
“Tradeshows work when the world isn’t in the grips of a global pandemic. Trade shows and events are incredibly effective in bringing thousands of like-minded people together to meet up with industry peers to exchange ideas, network and learn.
“The amount of strategic planning, creative, timing, coordination, production, and dollars that are required to deliver, install, tear down and deliver to the next event requires an almost unquantifiable village in order to produce an event or trade show exhibit.
“Back in the old days, the very first thing that planners needed to understand was the ‘Rules and Regulations’ section from the show kit. (Remember that?) The rules told us how high we could build our walls, how high we could fly our signs and how much setback we needed and what the sight lines were. They were written in stone and the only way around them was to submit a variance for approval.
“Those were the good ol’ days when everything was black and white and we knew how to plan. We’d done it all a thousand times before. We knew the landscape. We were experts.
“Today is different. While we have been excitedly planning for live events, there’s a lot of grey. Yes, we have rules and we have regulations, but there is no consistency after that. Which shows require vaccination. Which shows require masks? What are the consequences for not complying? How are mandates enforced? What state is the show in? Can this be upheld in Florida? Texas?
“We know it takes no less than twelve weeks to plan any event of significance, size and scale. If Las Vegas looks good today [and is not currently a hot spot] could it be a hot spot at the time of my event? Will we refund attendees registration? If so, how much? Should the conference be live only? Should we have a virtual component? What about hybrid?
“In today’s trade show world of planning and the questions they raise, along with the multiple scenarios that must be explored are, in all honesty, is simply exhausting.
“I love this industry. It’s in my blood. I’ve been doing it for more than a quarter of a century. Trade shows work because we know the rules of the game. As agencies, we need more clarity. Exhibitors need more clarity. Associations need more clarity. Unions need more clarity. Convention centers need more clarity. And on and on and on and on. It would help clear out some of all the grey that the pandemic has supplanted itself upon us. We need to establish more collective guidance because this is our new world and I need a job. I need this industry to not just survive but thrive.
“It would be a dream come true if we, as an industry, can come together and explore ‘Rules and Regulations’ beyond height restrictions. Who’s in?”
Bob McGlincy is director, business management at Willwork Global Event Services. Willwork creates engaging, energized, and exceptional event experiences. Bob can be contacted at Bob.McGlincy@willwork.com