Archives for category: Exhibition Organisers

(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?”

This post involves me climbing up on Dobbin, my personal hobby-horse so if you are looking for a sun-shiney, all things are AWESOME post….best you move right along. This is an old school RANT.

First up; the good news.  Australia is now seeing more international shows – especially in the medical field – being held in venues across this great land.  This is fab, it means a boost for our local industry and suppliers, brings cashed up delegates pouring money into economy and some kangaroos get patted.

The bad news: with international shows, brings international organisers and their way of doing things including their own suppliers.  Nothing too evil in that but a number of the international organisers have tie ups with international logistics providers and this means heart stopping charges in relation to getting your stand and client gear off a truck and onto the show floor.  By heart stopping I mean whatever you are paying now for forklifting to and from the truck and the stand and THEN the storage of your empty crates and road cases whilst the show is on, goes up by 3 or 4 times (or more) what you would normally pay an Australian provider to do.  Now I won’t be riding Dobbin so hard if the international logistics providers were providing logistics labour that looked like Tom Morello or Josh Homme, turned up with Haighs chocolates and offered to do my ironing but the level of service is on par with what is experienced at non-international shows. So on a straight comparison on services provided by an international organiser tie up and the local services, there is no perceivable difference.  And therefore, no reason that exhibitors and stand builders are being stung with charges 400% and beyond of what they normally pay for logistics services.  GAH!

We have been pretty lucky in Australia that we have been immune to the rort otherwise known as drayage that our American eagle friends have to live with on a daily basis.  Drayage is essentially the on site logistics handling services that get your gear on / off track and to / from your stand. With the prices you pay you would expect a team of white-gloved efficiency experts lovingly placing your goods on gold-edged flat-topped trolleys and then gently pushing them through the show aisles with the utmost care.  But no.  For costs that rival some countries GNP, you get some clapped out forklift driven by some bloke called Bubba get your gear to your stand sometime between “What? Never saw your gear lady…” and “I am on SMOKO”.  Hell, they are always on smoko.

Dobbin, my personal hobby horse

Dobbin, my personal hobby horse

So with some many companies questioning the value of their exhibit program, we need these high logistics costs like a NRL player needs another sleeve tattoo.  And I’m calling it as it is, it’s a rort, with kickbacks between the international organisers and the international logistics firms ensuring that the exhibitors and the service providers are getting billed way in excess of what they should. But it is just not enough to bang on about it in a blog post.  Here are some tips to tackle this bullshit:

  • Get in touch with the organisers and explain – perhaps with use of a map and a stuffed koala – that we are in Australia and we don’t do drayage.
  • Write letters to the organisers and telling them the costs are outrageous and ask what the hell they are on about.  People get all freaky with letters these days as so few people actually write them.  We get all worked up about something, like a post on Facebook thinking that will bring effective change and then forget about it.  But agitating for change takes work and we can’t be flakey about this.  It takes work but if you are committed, you can make a difference.
  • Demand a fixed price for the logistics services in writing.  This really puts the international logistics provider on the spot as they like to issue a sliding scale of fees, based on another currency, with penalty rates added in that are all so complicated to figure out they assume that you will give up and sign off on anything.  Be tenacious about this.  This is your money they are siphoning off. Insist upon measuring your gear yourself, compact your delivery into a small enough footprint as possible (think of these Russian Dolls with stuff sleeved inside other stuff) and give them the two fingers by bringing in whatever you can via the carpark and your own hand trolley.
  • Be pleasant about it but when on site ask the organisers why the charges are so high. Come at it from a curiosity point of view rather than white-hot anger that has the veins in your neck bulging as we are trying to get a positive outcome here, not an apprehended violence order issued against us.

Ok, so Dobbin and I have to move along as I feel compelled to tackle other issues like Christopher Pyne being…Christopher Pyne.  In the meantime, add to add your suggestion in the comments section to tackling the wackness that is creep in of drayage across this great land.

And!  Want to get your FREE 11 step checklist for awesome and stress free exhibitions and displays? Go here to get your immediate download.

Let’s end this rant on a happy vibe with a gorgeous slice of pop from LEN.

See you next week!

All hell has broke loose in the exhibition industry these past two weeks. We have the embarrassing cancellation of the Melbourne Motor Show 3 months out from opening and the trade show run in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was visited only by a brown dog. And he was lost.

Trade and public exhibitions rely on a strong network of organisers, designers, builders and exhibitors to create truly outstanding results. So what happens if the show organiser who is meant to um, like organise a show stiffs you or falls short on promises and commitments made? Hold the phone on calling a lawyer, you first need to Macguyver yourself out of the situation you have found yourself in. Here are 5 ways to do exactly that:

1. Trust you instincts

Normally if your exhibition organiser is a flake you get advanced notice early on. Calls and emails go unanswered, show plans and manuals are delayed from release and it all feels NQR. If you get this feeling of unease early in show lead up, start causing waves. It’s no good saying on site in an empty show hall “Well, I thought they had not done much show promotion”. These organisers have taken money from you for space in the show hall, you need to make sure that investment is honoured with the show organiser doing their damn job.

Motor Show blow out

Motor Show blow out

2. Read the fine print

One of the major complaints with the Merecedes-Benz Fashion Week trade show was the organisers had promised access to 20,000 buyers that did not materialise. That totally sucks but my first question on hearing that promise from the organisers would have been “How are you going to do that?!?” I want to hear the strategies, the promotions and the tactics the organisers have planned to unleash 20,000 buyers on the fashion exhibitors. I’m sorry to blame the victim here but a cursory glance at the festival layout would or should have raised some alarm as it seems that the trade show was moved from the high traffic area of entry to the runway shows of previous years to some side pavilion. Once again, this is your money that you are investing in marketing to achieve more sales and that investment needs protection and a return on it.

3. Pre show hustle

Let’s say we assume the worst and your show organiser is a muppet and that the pre-show promotion they promised is dire. Regardless of how bad or (yay!) how good an organiser is, as an exhibitor you also need to share the heavy lifting in the exhibition promotion. Tweet it out, update Facebook daily with teaser alerts about what can be seen at the show, send “save the date” with a secret promotion to your email list, get some local media buy-in and even send that hand written invitation. The cost to market yourself and your trade event has never been so cheap but the offset to this low-cost entry is that you need to do the leg work to make it happen or outsource to your 14-year-old neighbour. And one tip? Send slightly more emails / invites / updates etc than you feel comfortable doing. People are pressed for time and there are many demands for their attention, so put it out there as your audience might miss your initial message.

4. Form your posse

I tip my hat to the Mercedes-Benz fashion week exhibitors who marched en masse to the organisers office to demand answers on why the trade event was so poorly attended. If you are feeling gyped, chances are others are too and as there is safety in numbers, the power of the complaint is amped by numbers.  One thing, though. Before firing up the crowd and recruiting other pissed off types to the cause…what are you actually after? It is no good just slapping the desk, stabbing the air with a pointed finger and raising your voice, you need a list of demands you can present the organiser with a time frame attached.

Fashion Week fracas

Fashion Week fracas

5. If you are waiting for the organisers to do something, you may as well wait for the magic pony to show

After your letter of demands has been nailed to the organiser’s office door and some random bin has been set on fire, assume they will do stuff all. For real. Time to get busy, hit social media ramping up promotions, discounts and specials. Design a simple flyer, commandeer the nearest photocopier and the distribute where the delegates are attending events or in the nearby cares where  everyone hangs as show coffee is shite. Hijack the courtesy bus and regale the captives with a witty tale and issue an invite to get themselves over to your stand for a VIP gift. Your energetic and financial investment is on the line. Get busy.

If you have a story where the organiser was a muppet or let you down bad, share in the comments section below. What did you do to turn the situation around?

Ok, so my song choice this week actually includes the line “when things head south, you got to McGuyver your way out of it”*

Hit it Pearl Jam!

See you next week!

* Most likely not but it still fits with the melody