Event Vitality

Tradeshows are too stubborn to die.

I pondered this situation while helping a client with some tradeshow communications.  Granted, this client is in the ever changing and event heavy mobile application market space, and received a major boost due to iPads and other digital slabs (if Moses had owned an iPad, the other five commandments might have not been lost, though he would have to tithe 30% of synagogue receipts to Steve Jobs). Yet the fact that tradeshows persist and that marketing budgets for them are not rapidly declining seemed odd in this modern Internet age … at first.

empty-boothWithout question, the core of marketing has shifted toward online, with search optimization, banners and buzz lighting paths back to your web properties.  When well executed, the entire promotion and sales cycle can be completed without any two humans ever exchanging as much as a “good morning.”  What can be done online drives most marketing decisions and budgets. The hybrid, virtual tradeshows, have proven as popular as root canals because they are about as enjoyable.

Yet major tradeshows, that require travel and significant expense on the part of vendors and attendees alike, persist.

Tradeshows continue because they are the original social media. Though you can find product information online, and can commune with peers in digital forums, tradeshows provide the most time efficient triage.  Without the daily interruptions of normal office work, and with the concentration of vendors and comrades in one location, people can interact and research with relative efficiency.  They can chat with a vendor in one moment and get a critique of those products from a current user the next.

Social media for meat bags.

Having attended and vended at far too many tradeshows for one lifetime, the core market issue is not expense but effectiveness.  Large piles of lucre have been squandered by marketers who ignore focus, brand and market cycles during tradeshows.  I have witnessed companies that never change their booths, never tweak their messages to meet changing competitive realities, and some who destroy their brands by not selecting and preparing their staffs.

That last part is tough to swallow.

Every employee communicates your brand, from your CEO to your receptionist.  This counts double at tradeshows.  Large companies have the luxury of hand-picking employees to put a face on their company at events. Smaller companies have slimmer pickins, but have the ability to train staff before deployment.  In either case, the company brand, the core messages specific for the event, and a hierarchy for triage of various attendee types (prospects, current customers, media, competitors, etc.) should be established.  Most importantly though is that everyone with booth duty know what an attendee should think and feel about your company when they walk away from your booth.  No amount of digital elegance can correct meeting a bleary-eyed, disinterested and argumentative booth staffer, especially when your competitor is on the next aisle.

Tradeshows are social media in the flesh.  It’s a social event and should be conducted as such.


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