Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

January 16 2013

3 Questions Trade Show Organizers Need to Answer

By Carolyn Clark, Vice President, Marketing & Communications

Your attendees may be skeptical about the value of traveling to your trade show. Your exhibitors may be asking to see a more clearly defined ROI for their booths. Your sponsors may be shrinking their financial support.

At a Convening Leaders education session on the future of trade shows, one undeniable fact emerged: trade show organizers need to prepare for changes ahead. Answer these three questions to make sure you’re ready for them.

1) Where Are You?

This seems like an answer that you should know, right? Not necessarily. After so many transitions due to tightening budgets and the lingering impact of economic worries, Francis Friedman, president, Time & Place Strategies, told Convening Leaders participants that it’s important to take a step back and make sure they understand their strengths, weaknesses, needs and opportunities.

“It’s time to ask yourself, ‘do you know what now is’?” Friedman advised.

Think about the current state of your show. What’s changed since three years ago? Have you embraced new technology on your show floor? Are certain trends making you worry about what to do next?

2) Are You Getting Social?

New research from the PCMA Education Foundation highlights that attendees and exhibitors alike want to feel like co-creators of a trade show.

“If they feel that they own the show, they will participate,” Friedman said.

Establishing that sense of ownership has become easier with social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One Convening Leaders participant said that her education association posts a question each day to collect insights and keep their audience engaged.

“It helps us keep our eye on members in a very grassroots way,” the participant said.

3) Have You Given Your Exhibitors a Real Voice?

A strong social media presence can keep you showing up in news feeds, but how can you really invite your exhibitors to the table for a conversation about how you can help them? While you may send out a survey to your exhibitors to collect data on how to improve their experience, many organizers struggle to motivate participants to actually return their answers.

“We ask for client input, but getting responses is challenging,” another Convening Leaders participant said.

To understand exhibitors’ pain points, some show organizers are giving this audience an even bigger voice with Exhibitor Advisory Councils. By giving exhibitors a platform where they can offer suggestions, voice concerns and assume a real partnership role, you can ensure that your show stays relevant and your booths stay full.

For more on the future of trade shows, click here.

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