Trade show survival tips

Trade show survival tipsI recently had the opportunity of moderating a panel of experts at the Eastern Canada chapter of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association. The panel members covered four areas of the exhibition industry; a show manager, a display builder, a shipper and a show contractor. Each spoke on how to ride out the current economic uncertainly from their perspective.

We started by asking the audience for a show of hands on how many would be cutting back on their exhibit expense, how many would be maintaining the same level as last year and how many would be increasing their budget. The percentages were split evenly at one third for each question. It is both astonishing and encouraging to hear that two thirds of the participants plan to either keep their budgets at the same level or increase it.

The panel offered some thought-provoking ideas. Here are a few points that are worth considering.

1. Exhibit Space

Rather than pulling out of a show, consider taking a smaller space.

Some companies are pulling out of shows in an attempt to lower their expenses. The problem with this approach is that, in many cases, these companies do not really know which shows produce results and which don’t. A better solution is to pare back the amount of exhibit space during these challenging times and measure the results. Once the company knows clearly which shows produce positive results, the decision about which to drop not only becomes easier to justify, it also makes sense.

2. Working With the Show Manager

Now more than ever, it is important to strengthen your relationship with show management. Prior to making any radical changes to the exhibit program, companies should talk to the one person who has an incredible wealth of knowledge – the show manager.

Traditionally, there is a wall between show management and exhibitors with no attempt to cross over to see what’s on the other side.

The show manager is busy juggling the needs of many exhibitors and the exhibitor looks at the show management’s advice with skepticism. The truth of this myth is that show management has a long-term view of their shows. Nothing pleases them more than exhibitors who add value to their shows and are happy with the experience.

Show mangers have also raised the bar on their professionalism through some of the certification programs offered by the industry. Ignoring this potential wealth of knowledge means that exhibitors simply miss important opportunities.

3. Negotiate Costs

Generally, show managers will not cut the cost of exhibit space, and suppliers generally do not adjust the price for specific services. But, both agreed that they would be open to discussing the entire exhibit expenditure and helping the exhibitor put together a package of services that makes economic sense. The panelists expressed a willingness to sit down and talk with the exhibitor’s and develop win-win solutions.

4. Maintain the Company Image

While it may be necessary to make some cutbacks, it’s equally important to make sure that the integrity of your presence has not been compromised. In this economy, the last thing any company wants is to show cracks in their well-being. Poorly conceived exhibition plans can quickly back-fire leaving the impression with your clients that your stability is not what you profess it to be.

5. Turning the Economic Downturn into Opportunities

Since one third of exhibitors might be cutting back or maintaining the same level of commitment, there is an opportunity during the current economic slowdown for those who stay in the game. While some exhibitors may choose to have less space, it’s what they do with the space that’s crucial. Those companies that have booth staff who are up for the challenge and ensure that their physical appearance attracts the right people and gives the right message will come through this economic downturn well ahead of the competition.