Ashley Jones, event director at Framework Media, on the organiser’s newest launch – marketingSHOWCASE – and the strengths of the roadshow model.
Be honest, how far would you travel to an industry trade show?
For me, even the most relevant show of the year, if it’s held more than an hour away, I’d be pushed to go. Factoring in travel, I’m going to need to allow a full day in my diary. Even if there’s nothing else specific in my schedule, the likelihood is, something will “crop up” – it always does.
The days when business teams would attend their annual trade show ‘on-mass’ are long gone. No more boozy overnight stays, triple-decker stands with hospitality penthouse, massive crowds of people having a fun day out. The fact is, we’re all time-poor, information rich. We only attend trade shows with a purpose and they must be convenient. The benefit is in the face-to-face opportunity to meet potential suppliers and industry peers, engage eye-to-eye and achieve goals that you can’t sitting at your desk.
As 21st century exhibition organisers, we act as meeting facilitators. Our customers require us to attract motivated buyers, while visitors expect high quality content in the form of relevant exhibits and engaging speakers. What’s more, they need us to make it as easy for them as possible. Fail to match buyer with supplier and your event is doomed.
As a result, exhibitions have become more niche and smaller, particularly B2B. There are fewer examples of successful ‘Mega Business Events’, so the need for an annual ‘National’ exhibition comes into question. After all, what is a national exhibition? How many shows have the pull to attract businesspeople from far-flung locations? Whether held in one of the London venues or The NEC, I’d argue that the vast majority of visitors live and work locally, resulting in what are, in effect, larger regional events.
Back in the day (1991), our original concept for an industry roadshow was based on the premise that, where a successful annual exhibition exists, there are also opportunities for regional events with the same theme. As it happens, in our first market ‘business software’ we also ran the annual event and, whilst the annual event is long gone, the roadshow continues to thrive. Certainly it has and continues to evolve, but it’s still out there serving satisfied exhibitors and visitors alike.
Our most recent launch, marketingSHOWCASE, is another good example of a roadshow designed to provide a focussed and convenient way for busy Marketing Managers to find new suppliers, learn from industry experts and share best practice. The response from delegates has been awesome.
Visitors frequently comment how much the appreciate the local approach. They value the fact that suppliers come to them, which means they are open to conversation and creates an atmosphere that’s conducive to doing business.
In spite of what I said earlier, it’s amazing that the first question asked by lots of prospective exhibitors is still ‘How many people do you get?’. My answer is always the same, ‘surely you’re more interested in who’s coming than how many’. Simply put, we always focus on delegate quality. We look for exhibitors who would rather have two or three quality conversations with ‘real buyers’ than large numbers of unmotivated visitors. Collecting background information is a task much better performed on Google than at exhibitions, which, as I’ve already said, should be a place for face-to-face meetings.
Of course there’s a place for exhibitions of all types and sizes but B2B organisers must accept that it’s not about filling space, it’s about delivering the right number of buyers and creating selling opportunities for your clients.
My personal opinion? That’s better done locally.