TSM – Tradeshow Warning Signs

When you see theseBEWARE – In the multiple decades of my domestic and international trade show participation, a recent experience at a state professional association’s annual continuing education (CEU’s) and annual convention tops them all.  It prompts me to alert you to the multiple potential problems you may face when you’re a “First Time” exhibitor at a Business to Business (B2B) trade show:

  1. The ABC and XYZ Associations JOINT Convention – When marketed to potential exhibitors through and under the auspices of the former group, inquire as to the audience each (ABC and XYZ) is going to represent. The event in question had a probable 10 to 1 membership differential, so you’d expect a similar delegate differential, which is fine when your target is the ABC group.  What happened at this event was the attendance ratio was more like 60/40 and since most of the exhibitors were targeting the former, there was more than a little irritation at the high number of the latter group’s attendees.
  2. When representatives of ABC give you projected attendance numbers, it behooves you to enquire as to whether that’s from THEIR delegation or theirs plus those of XYZ. In this case, ABC made it appear there would be 700+ ABC representatives in attendance – a number well worth going after and likely to yield several prospects.  Published attendance at the event put the TOTAL delegate count at 500 and the attendee ration at 60/40 or 300 ABC delegates to 200 XYZ delegates.  Again, exhibitors were chagrined at finding less than half of what they were promised and then to have that group heavily mixed with the XYZ group, which was of no interest.

As a “First Time” exhibitor, it behooves you to get at least these two recommendations BEFORE signing your contract:

  1. An endorsement from a member of the discipline or audience group with which you’re wanting to interface at the show – someone who’s been there before.
  2. A company or organization (hopefully similar to yours) which has exhibited at previous events.

From the first group, find out how much time THEY spent in the exhibit hall and how many exhibitors with whom they actually visited.  From the second, find out what percentage of your target group is actually at the event AND spending time in the exhibit hall.

Finally – The overwhelming number of B2B trade shows are staged in one of these formats:

  1. Opening “Party In the Hall’ on Night One, followed by one or two full days (9-5) and a final day of 9 to 2 or 3 of exhibit time.
  2. Opening “Breakfast In the Hall” with 1 or 2 full days and a final “short day”
  • Unceremonious 2 ½ to 4 days continuous exhibits – the usual format of large national/international shows with 2000+ exhibitors and 30,000+ delegates

When the show you’re considering varies drastically from these templates, think twice and definitely implement points A & B above.  This event opened on SUNDAY – Noon to 7pm then went Monday through Friday 8am to Noon each of those days.  Exhibitors were allowed to leave whenever they chose, which began after Wednesday’s session.

In summary then, when considering participation in a new or unfamiliar show, remember the following:

  • When it’s a JOINT event of two disparate yet complementary professional groups, ask, IN ADVANCE, for the attendance numbers and ratio of the two groups – it could greatly influence your participation decision
  • When only TOTAL delegate attendance numbers are given for a joint event, ask for the breakdown between the two groups and decide, based on those numbers, whether it’s worth pursuing
  • Visit with both past exhibitors AND delegates at this event to be assured the show format is workable, there’s plenty of time to spend with delegates and when you are spending time, it’s with the delegates YOU want.

While my client was able to make lemonade from the multiple lemons of this show, the quantity was far less than we had been led to believe was possible or than we expected.

For more information on this event and how to guarantee qualified leads from EVERY B2B show in which you exhibit, please contact Hiett Ives at HiettIves@ShowDynamics.com or call 832-372-6900.

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