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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Are Business Exhibitions A Dying Breed?

I went to a business exhibition in Manchester this afternoon.

This is the fourth one I've attended in the last 12 months. The same organisers ran a succesful one last year which I attended.

This one seemed to be about half to one third the size of last years event.

When I talked to exhibitors they expressed concern that it was so quiet. Even the networking area had shrunk from last time.

One business owner had expressed an interest in a stand this yearto the organisers because last year's was successful. But he said he was glad that the organisers hadn't followed up with him and sold him a stand. He also noted that he'd seen very little advertising.

This comes on top of a previous business exhibition which had very few attendees too.


IMHO I think there's several reasons:

  1. No one I spoke to saw much, if any advertising
  2. I suspect people who attended the last event and were disatisfied stayed away
  3. Because the exhibition was much smaller it only took 30 to 40 minutes to go round. So people didn't stay and bump into people they knew - thus lacking any buzz at the show
  4. The stands were uniformly boring, OK one had an owl on it. But there was a stand with an owl last year, so that's been done
  5. One comment after the last show was
    "why would business people come to an exhibition to be sold to?"
  6. The free seminar titles were deeply uninteresting and today had no one I actually knew.

My personal favourite is number 5.

If you think about it all the stands were pushing their wares. Ok some were definitely useful to businesses. But do you have the time to wander round some stands just to find one or two that would help you when you can use the Internet to find them?

That said I still think all the reasons contribute to a general disinterest in exhibiting.

I know one seminar organiser who does very successful London events. He said that they'd tried to organise a seminar in Manchester and had to cancel due to lack of interest.

Yet if I go down to a seminar in London I know I'll meet people from Manchester and the Northwest!


Does that mean business exhibitions are dead in Manchester?

I think the organisers need to think very seriously about who their customers are.

Firstly, it's not the booth exhibitors. Because with so few attendees they're definitely going to want a chunk of their money back.

If they're truly aiming at SME's in the Northwest they need to think about the following:

  1. What does an SME WANT from going to an event?
  2. Is an exhibition/seminar programme the best way to deliver what they want?
  3. What can we, the organisers, do to make the show so attractive people have to attend?
  4. How can we make sure they come back next year?

Then they can decide who to invite to exhibit.

Then the stands and exhibitors are another can of worms, as are the seminars. But they both flow from asking the 4 questions above.

Finally email me with the word "trade" in the subject I'll send you my Tradeshow Checklist and Countdown to running a more succesful booth in an exhibition.

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