(Episode 1: Tell the organisers to go fly a kite)

Pulling out of an entire trade show program or even a single show needs to be considered carefully. And requires top shelf spirits.

There was a time back in the early 2000’s when BMW pulled out of doing Motor Shows in Brisbane and suffered heavily for it, both in lost sales and a downgrade in perception. The Brisbane Motor Show was pretty unique in being the ONLY show on the Australian circuit where people actually bought cars off the stand floor. One year when I was managing the Mercedes-Benz stand, and a sports car in a ridiculous shade of 70’s deep purple was off loaded for $200K. That alone covered the costs of the entire stand build. So while other car brands did hot deals at the show, the question remained…where was BMW and were they….you know, ok in the Brisbane market? This perception of not exhibiting at a show bit BMW hard so after several years MIA they rejoined the exhibitor list.

Back in the day of the Australian Motor Shows!

Back in the day of the Australian Motor Shows!

So before you bin your deposit invoice for stand space at a show consider what your absence will say to your customer. “Just being there” is not a single good enough reason to exhibit but you need a strategy around counteracting negative perceptions about your brand’s absence.

Here’s when I think it is time to jettison your participation in trade shows:

1. When you have no support from management or your sales team to participate in a trade show.
This is one of the toughest things to push back against: a wall of crossed arms, closed minds and snapped shut wallets. I always believe in picking your battles. So if your well considered case studies, charts and spreadsheets proving return on investment and customer endorsements are not enough to convince management or your sales team the value of exhibiting, then let it ride. You can always go along to the show and gather intel in staging another pitch for why you should be in the show the following year. Or you could suggest another course of action that does not discard events entirely (I come to this later in the post, sit tight).

2. When the show is crap
Everything has an expiry date, including trade shows. In the last few years the motor show circuit has folded due to reductions in marketing budgets and poor scheduling. But a show does not have to fold to force you out. Trade shows with declining audiences, lackluster programs and an uninspired speaker list should also ring alarm bells. I think there is a definite case for a range of shows – especially medial based ones – that should look to moving their event to every second year rather than yearly as there is not enough innovation in some medical fields to sustain yearly shows. So weigh up the delegates number (cull the inevitable padding done by organisers to boost numbers), study the program and talk to your customers…does this trade show warrant your participation?

3. The organisers are vague / not delivering on promises / hard to get a hold of / have no form.
Look, don’t get me started….the amount of slack-jawed,UN-helpful, UN-organised organisers I have to deal with *reaches for the stress ball and goes to lie on the floor for a series of breath of fire exercises*….Ok, I’m back, let’s start again.

Trade shows can draw a lot of energy form you and your team so if the trade show organisers are continually not making good with promises, don’t return messages and are not working to help you increase the value of participation…then sod them off. A trade show is only as strong and successful as the organizer and too much money is committed to exhibiting to have it fritted away by a hot mess of an organizer. If you have had a bad experience, by all means raise it with the organizer but if you feel that they aren’t capable of improvement then consider not participating in future shows.

So now you have marked “return to sender” on the stand space deposit invoice…now what?

Do your own.

Yes! Do your own event!

A lot of companies like Thiess and Siemens are staging their own customer events so they can control the invitee list and tailor their invited speakers to their delegate’s particular area of interest. This is not as work intensive as it sounds and while there is a significant cost investment, your ability to control and influence the outcomes is far greater than if you attend a third party organized event. I will dive into the ins and outs and what-have-yous in next week’s blog post. This blog post is a two part-er, just like one of my fav TV shows Moonlighting used to do. Except there is no Bruce Willis. Because there something NQR about Brucey these days.

Thiess doing their own thing with a roadshow event

Thiess doing their own thing with a roadshow event

But there is everything right and fabulous about Dan Sultan who I will be seeing playing live tonight!

See you next week for the continuation of our cliffhanger “Just told the show organizer to get bent, now what genius?”