Robby Blumenfeld, president of Abex, addresses the crowd before the panel discussion.
On Tuesday morning, industry professionals attending EXHIBITOR2011 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas were well fed, refreshed and ready to discuss the tradeshow industry’s best practices. The Exhibit Industry Council (EIC) panel discussion, which happened in conjunction with this year’s MOD11 Breakfast and Networking event, featured a group of individuals all representing different facets of the tradeshow and exhibit industry.
Moderator Jim Wurm, executive director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association (EACA), was introduced by Don Svehla, publisher of Exhibit City News, co-sponsor of the event. Wurm started the conversation with a slideshow presentation that compiled issues and troubles the tradeshow industry is facing.
“The problems that we sometimes overlook when things are going well and everyone is busy, hit us square in the face,” said Wurm. “This will be an opportunity to discuss and develop some best practices.”
The slideshow included information about the difference and definitions of world-class customer service and third-world customer service. The main pinpoints of trouble were issues like the obvious economic downturn, the tradeshow death spiral and the flawed tradeshow model.
However, as the discussion began, the most persistent and prominent theme was the measurement of tradeshow success.
“Exhibitors need help measuring outcomes. They need help from all of us in the room,” said Wurm. “That is why the Exhibit Industry Council was formed.”
Jeff Masters, senior manager of global events at Philips Healthcare, added to Wurm’s plea for assistance by insisting that measuring tradeshows contributes to its success.
“We need to move our conversation out of costs and into contribution,” said Masters. “Some attendees will come into your booth and talk to you for ten minutes and you have no idea who those other people are who stopped into your booth for a few minutes.”
Masters went on to detail the process and use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology and the advantages its use has in measuring the exhibiting industry.
On the exhibitor side of the conversation, Glenda Brungardt, tradeshow and events manager at Hewlett-Packard, said her company makes the decision about appearing at shows strictly based on numbers.
“We dropped out of a large show in January based on numbers,” said Brungardt. “We did what we needed to in the meeting rooms because we needed to make the right decision and we had the data to back it.”
The president of ConvExx, a show management company, Sue Schwartz, had a different opinion on the reasons behind measuring tradeshows.
“I can’t get into the head of every exhibitor and know why they do a show,” said Schwartz. “What we have to do is find a relevant way to audit. Exhibitors vote with their feet.”
Justin Hersh, founder and CEO of Delphi Productions, a design and production firm, agreed with Schwartz’s idea that auditing the quality of people who come through tradeshows is pertinent to the success of the industry.
“If we’re going to have a vibrant and successful industry, we have to step up to that next level of awe,” said Hersh. “We need that data, perhaps more than the exhibitor does.”
However, Tradeshow Management’s president BJ Enright interjected with the idea that networking and leads are not only attained at the tradeshow.
“I might not meet all these people at the tradeshow,” said Enright. “I might meet them at a dinner, or an event, or another booth.”
Toward the end of the discussion, Amanda Helgmoe, CEO and owner of Nuvista, the tradeshow service company, summed up the information by concluding that knowledge and communication is the key to achievement
“It needs to be tied together, we have to continue to educate,” said Helgmoe. “Educate with positive reinforcement and stories.”
Jim Wurm ended the conversation nicely by adding, “Our job is to help exhibitors feel successful. We can all win. That’s why we’re here.”