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August 12 2013

Trade Show Alert: Why Your Exhibitors Are Failing

By David McMillin



Every show organizer has faced plenty of complaints from frustrated exhibitors who didn’t have a massive crowd of potential buyers flooding their booths.

At the Red Diamond Congress, hosted by the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association in Chicago from July 30 - August 1, participants heard a new perspective on all those complaints: exhibitors shouldn’t event want a crowd.

Wait, some might say, that’s the whole point of a trade show, isn’t it? To have hundreds or thousands of attendees stopping in booths, talking with sales representatives and trading business cards? Bob Milam, a contributing writer at Exhibitor Publishing Group and appropriately known as “Trade Show Bob”, says that the conventional belief that big traffic leads to big results is wrong.

Instead, Milam argues that exhibitors should be ignoring the masses and aiming to find the one percent solution, which refers to the tiny number of attendees that actually matter to an exhibiting company.

SEE ALSO: What Attendees Want from Exhibitors

“Only a small percentage of attendees really matter,” Milam told participants at the Congress.

More than likely, that small percentage includes those buyers who already have some sort of connection to the exhibiting company. For example, the one percent might include that big piece of business a company is working to close or an existing buyer who hasn’t renewed his or her annual contract. It does not include every attendee walking the show floor.

As show organizers work with exhibitors to help them understand how to maximize their ROI, discussing the one-percent approach can help guide companies through the process of a successful trade show presence.

“It’s all about helping your exhibitors understand how to target those key attendees that can make or break a show,” Milam says.

SEE ALSO: 3 Ways to Adjust Your Exhibitors’ Expectations

A Closer Look at the Show Organizer-Exhibitor Relationship

While show organizers do not have the time to walk all of their exhibitors through the ins and outs of designing and staffing their booths, Terence Donnelly, vice president, sales, Experient, says that some personal attention can go a long way.

“If exhibitors have a poor return at the show, they blame show management - - never themselves,” Donnelly says. “If they don’t get the ROI, they’re not going to exhibit again.”

SEE ALSO: Terence Donnelly in the Spotlight

Are you doing anything as a show organizer to hold the hands of your exhibiting companies and walk them down a path toward success? Share your tips for helping exhibitors in the comments section below.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Deb Tewell 13 Aug
    After a slow trade show at our 2012 workshop, exhibitors and I sat down to brainstorm ways to make the exhibit hall "the place to be" while it was open. We followed up this very frank and open conversation with a conference call a month later once we'd all had a chance to think more about it. I have kept the initial group in the loop with email updates over the last few months. I intend to pass along some of the info from this article in my next communication to them.

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