Holy cats, I hope so! Otherwise I have hitched my wagon to a very sick and strung out donkey.  (More on the donkey later).  I recently wrote an article for the new Aspire Magazine “Why 3D marketing matters”, and this really got me thinking, if I was wearing the client hat & heels, would I still feel paid up and passionate about trade shows? And if I was sceptical about the value of exhibition participation, what would I say to the client version of me?  I, hand on the heart, believe trade shows and exhibitions still matter and I’m not the only one:

1. Seth Godin thinks so.

Seth, dubbed “America’s Greatest Marketer” by American Way Magazine was interviewed by Dave Egan on his blog “The International Centre for Exhibitor and Event Marketing” about his take on the trade show and event industry. While he feels that trade shows will suffer in relevance within 10 years due to online engagement, he acknowledges there is a great opportunity for the industry to drive the change and benefit from it.  A number of my clients are already using social media as part of their entire trade show participation including pre-show marketing, promotions running during the event and post show follow up.  The exciting thing about this the show that use to last only a couple of days, now has a lifespan well beyond the trade show floor, making the reach and penetration of trade shows that much more powerful.

But…(and there is always a cautionary tale)

The trade show industry will decline if we stay stuck with the current format of row after row of booths that all look the same, are staffed by the same disinterested sock puppet who drinks the free coffee from other stands and is only interested in texting his mates for the booze up at the lap dance palour later that night.

2. The government thinks so.

In a move to update New South Wales aging exhibition and convention precinct that no one will miss  (especially the loading dock that is the size of a typical one bedder apartment), the state government is spending $1billion dollars to develop new world class facilities.   We all know that all levels governments are bleating about the bare cupboards, tightening belts and conservative fiscal policy, so why would a government find $1 billion dollars behind the back of the lounge? Uh, that would be because it is estimated that the trade show and exhibition industry contributes around $200 – $250 million dollars a year to the NSW economy.  And NSW is not the only state to get on board the trade show train.  Victoria recently added a new Convention Centre to their exhibition campus area.

 But….(the government is involved, ‘nuff said)

Because the government is involved, they will most likely sell off the operating rights to the highest bidder so they can be seen to be recouping the investment for the NSW taxpayer.  And because the winning bidder has to make money on the rights they have bought, you just know there is going to be some crazy pricing of services.  It’s already going on.  I was quoted by a venue recently the price of $224.00 per hour for an operator, a garden variety juicer and some oranges so my client could have fresh juice to offer visitors to their stand.  After my client and I had stopped laughing, checked the price and started laughing again, we decided to ditch the idea and spend the money elsewhere.  Venues will continue to miss out catering options when their pricing fails the “Are you for real?!?” test.  The venue operators shouldn’t be sharpening their axes and eyeing off the pretty golden goose.  The goose is likely to get jack of it and go find another pond to paddle in.

3. You and your fellow marketers do.

From our industry body the EEAA for the period 1st July 2011 to 31st December 2011 a survey was held across the membership base and:

  • Venues hosted 92 new events, which represents 29% of shows held.
  • Trade events had an exhibitor base of 6,621 participants, attracting 202,688 visitors
  • Consumer shows drew 699,170 visitors with 4,309 exhibitors

That’s a lot of small, medium and multinational businesses that see value in exhibitions participation.

But…(it’s not all cupcakes and unicorns)

  • 73% of the membership expect decreasing exhibitor budgets to inhibit growth in the future.

I’m not paddling the doom canoe despite that nugget of information. I figure it is a great opportunity to get creative and find unique and interesting ways to work with a more streamlined budget.  Get lean and go crazy!

I am great company with the fellow trade show supporters I have mentioned above and I’d be happy to answer any query you might have on the state of play in the exhibition industry.  Go here to get in touch or leave a comment in the section below.

Now back to the donkey…hot damn! It was not a donkey, I messed up, it was a deer in the video I was thinking of.  With bonus Josh Homme & Dave Grohl on the skins!

Enjoy and see you next week!