What Does The Future Hold For Trade Shows?June 14, 18
Do traditional trade shows have a future?
It's not a new or particularly original question – it occurred to me many years ago when I attended my first show. Endless rows of booths and almost no action for many of them for hour after hour are not exactly a rare sight.
Many are the times when I have walked the halls of a show looking for exhibitors to ask about the state of business and what is in demand. Either there have not been enough visitors/buyers approaching booths to make it worthwhile, or I walk around and see nothing much is happening and then interview exhibitors who tell me that the show is fine and they are pleased with the results.
Taking part in trade shows is a seriously expensive endeavor and not to be lightly entered into. The costs are substantial: flights, hotels, meals, shipping and insuring goods there and back and having staff away from their desks for up to a week as well as many other incidentals.
For the organizers of trade shows, the events are a huge money maker. Exhibitors pay rather a lot of money for a somewhat modest product: a booth with a few chairs and a table or two and electricity and then hope that buyers are going to turn up.
Do the trade show organizers make a huge effort to market the show and ensure potential buyers attend? In the opinion of many diamond firms, the organizers simply depend on the prestige of the event: the JCK and Hong Kong shows, for example. The former is critical for companies selling into the US, the world's single most important market, and the latter for selling goods to Hong Kong but even more so to China.
In a digital age of instant and easy communication, do shows really justify the enormous logistical and financial headaches for exhibitors? After all, in no time in human existence have we been as connected as we are today. Meanwhile technology enables diamond companies to show off their goods in real time from anywhere on the plant to a potential buyer elsewhere. Another common complaint is that there are too many shows, and they are sometimes badly timed from the point of view of religious holidays.
There is the argument, of course, that face-to-face contact is still the best way of conducting business. You need to be able to look into a seller's eyes and measure him/her up. Are they hiding something? Is a better deal possible? Are they under pressure to sell?
Often just walking a trade show will allow you to meet new potential customers and also to re-engage with current customers. And if you are exhibiting, just walking a trade show will allow you to meet potential new customers, create partnerships and also to re-engage with current customers. In addition, there is also the argument that attending shows enables you to see new trends and spot demands for certain goods that sitting in an office in a bourse does not allow you to do. You can also see what your competitors are doing, which is a not inconsiderable business advantage.
Are trade shows worth the investment? My impression is that exhibitors are voting with their feet and attracting them is becoming an increasingly difficult job for organizers. Let me know your views.