The exhibitor that packs up and leaves before the end of a trade show is a bad look.  The show ends when the show ends and for delegates to be faced with cleaned out exhibition stands save for a few random boxes and forgotten donkey (it happens), well, it is really not selling the importance of face to face marketing that trade shows provide.  Earlier this year I was interviewed by IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) about some of the ideas I might have to keep the early leavers at bay and here are my ideas:

(1) Why are exhibitors tempted to leave early when they run out of merchandise?

Because they should not have been exhibiting at the show in the first place.  If you main objective for attending a show is to give out free stuff, then my advice would be please, save yourself time and money by not exhibiting.  If you have the opportunity to interact with people face to face that have attended the show because that have enough interest in your industry to take time out of their busy day, to pay crazy stupid amounts for parking – or have even come into town for the show – suffered through deep fried whatever food for you just to shove some free stuff their way….Holy cats, please don’t attend.  Trade shows are so, so unique as a marketing tool as it is THE way to interact personally with your customers and potential customers. Flinging free stuff at anyone who comes by your stand without talking to them about your product and even determining if they are part of the target market is just so flawed.  The exhibitors that do leave once the free stuff has gone have the view that “Well, now we have given out all the stuff, we’ll jet off” whereas the smart exhibitor will recognise that one the free stuff is gone, opportunities still abound.   You know, have a reason to call on people with the line “Hey, I am sorry but we are all out of samples at the moment but I will be in your area next week, can I stop in and see you then and give you the sample you are after then?  BOOM!  You just got a reason the stay in touch and a sales call!  The smart exhibitor knows also that until the show closes, anyone, ANYONE might be he one to place an order, request a follow up call or require information.  If you are the muppet exhibitor that is in the bar after they have given away all the free stuff, all these opportunities have passed you by.

Fully Sic!  But no one home...

Fully Sic! But no one home…

 (2) How does that affect the other exhibitors, the attendees, and the show?

If I was an exhibitor I would think “Praise to baby Jesus!” as I now have a potential competitor out of the way and the chance of getting my message across in a crowded market has just become that much easier!  For attendees, I think you would be disappointed or think it a little weird that a show stand is unmanned and unless you were highly motivated you would not seek out that company post show.  As a show organiser, you would be quite understandably upset have unmanned booths but you could turn it into something amusing by putting up a handwritten cardboard sign in the unmanned booth saying “We regret to inform you that Stand X is not manned due to an alien abduction but stands Y and Z have booth staff that dodged the alien capture and would be happy to chat with you.”  I think if you treat it with a sense of humour outwardly while inside you could be seething would help stop complaints from other exhibitors and attendees.

 (3) What strategies can a show organizer adopt to keep exhibitors at a show until the very end?

Firstly, it needs to be written into the hiring of the stand space contract.  Something as basic at staying to show close seems pretty freakin’ obvious but unless it is written down, don’t assume that everyone gets it.  I would also suggest that if it happens, the exhibitor that left before show close is banned from attending the show again.  In extreme cases,show organisers might want to introduce a bond amount of a thousand dollars or so that they hold the credit card details on and if the exhibitor leaves before show end, happy days, $1K goes to the charity of choice.

 (4) If an exhibitor wants to leave early, how should a show organizer explain the importance of sticking around?

The show organiser should get them some information of Trade Show Exhibiting 101.  A youtube video could be made, so simply and for low cost that runs for 5 mins or less explaining that being a face to face form of marketing, you need to make sure your FACE is there at the show until the very end.  You could even have the video transcribed for them if videos are not everyone’s cup of tea.  Whatever the method, provide key points on the benefits and how to leverage face to face interactions.

 (5) What are the most important things that show organizers and exhibitors should know about exhibitors staying until the end of a show?

1. Your last enquiry of the day could be you best and biggest order ever or your dream client.  Who knows?  But you certainly won’t if you leave the show early.

2. If your approach as an exhibitor is simply to give out stuff at a show, then don’t come.  Best you leave whatever free stuff you were to give out in the middle of the street for anyone to take as that will be cheaper for you than attending the show and it will provide you with the same outcome ie. poor quality leads, more people just wanting free stuff off you.

3.  As an organiser, you don’t want the dump and run exhibitors at your event.  Either spend a little bit of time putting some training in place or cut them off from attending future shows / go nuts on their credit card bond!

So I feeling like some old school Madonna.  Let’s get into the groove for a Friday, baby!

See you next week!