Trade Shows Sick but Not Dying
It has been pretty quiet in B2B land in the first week of the New Year as managers try and assess how bad the first quarter is going to be. Plans are being made for further redundancies in many of the b2b media houses. Meanwhile real concern is now being expressed about the outlook for trades shows. Peter Kirwan notes the recent Lex article (availale to FT subscribers only) which implies that the trade show model is structurally as well as cyclically damaged.
We have postulated for some time that the demise of print publishing will infect trade shows too. Attendances, as the FT points out, have been going down for some years. Meanwhile the cost of attendance for exhibitors is punishing. The UK is one of the most expensive places in the world to exhibit. A squeeze on budgets, an urge to avoid unecessary travel and a niggling doubt about the cost effectiveness of shows all bode ill. Thats one of the reasons that UBM is experimenting again with "virtual shows".
Rather as with magazines, the answer is to reinvent the trade show model. Most organisers will already tell you that a room with rows of booths is not the best way to win new visitors, but few organisers do much else.
Exhibitors don't want to exhibit. They want to meet potential customers and seed new orders. A growing area of interest for organisers is bespoke events where a tailored event solution is created for a customer. When an exibitor spends £20000 on a booth at a trade show they spend four times that on everything else (travel, stand design and build etc), most of it with contractors not with the organiser. If trade show companies thought about how to take the £100000 from the customer by building a bespoke event solution for them and their customers, new profits can be made.
Meanwhile, in the short term, expect a rough ride for this years rebooking of exhibitors at 2009 trade shows.