4 Reasons Why Trade Shows Are Important
Recently, I came across a reply on post on a LinkedIn that spurred my thoughts around the topic of why trade shows are so important. For years now I have been preaching to the industry the four pillars of what trade shows are encompassed of. Of course, this was taught to me by my former mentor Rajiv Jain, as we both grew our former company before selling.
In this reply to the post, it discussed why exhibitors extremely dislike virtual events and it got me to think about why they truly dislike it. Or were they not shown the correct way to interact in virtual events? Or since we were thrown into virtual events, did we not put them on correctly? In other words did we focus solely on content being delivered in a meaningful way to the attendees and not enough on delivering the other three essential foundational pillars of events?
What are these 4 pillars?
Of the four pillars, content is perhaps the one most known and utilized within conferences and events. This is because delivering meaningful content to the attendees and event audience is essential in order to acquire them to come to the live portion of the event. In the dawn of virtual events it was much easier to deliver our meaningful content to the masses and much easier to acquire attendees as there were no budget constraints to travel to the live events nor were there time constraints. As for the most part, associations were delivering the recordings of the sessions and content after the event to those that had registered.
When organizers developed their run of show for their virtual events the priority was delivering this meaningful content. The exhibitors who typically make up a majority of the revenue for live events were put in the back of minds and not placed up front for the run of show. This could be one of the reasons that caused such strife and dislike of virtual events by exhibitors.
Fortunately, there are many events and many virtual platforms that were created by event organizers that understood this dilemma and therefore created virtual events around delivering equal opportunity for all four pillars of the foundation of events. This is true also for those virtual platforms like conference solutions who created a virtual platform around delivering meaningful connections to exhibitors while distributing the meaningful content.
Jumping into the next pillar, connections, it is helpful to understand what connections mean at an event. One of the simplest versions of connections is the ability for exhibitors to gather leads for their business through showcasing their products and services at their booths. What many fail to realize is that connections come in many different forms. One form that has particularly come to life even pre-covid is the peer-to-peer connections in conversations via lounges or the ever loved random hallway conversations at events.
Many virtual platforms believe they are delivering meaningful connections, however, if truly delved into they are merely touching the surface on what the word meaningful is. Delivering and having the capability to allow exhibitors and attendees to connect does not mean you are delivering meaningful connections at the event.
Of course, there are patented algorithms like that of conference solutions that can help with delivering these meaningful connections, but it also comes down to the ability of choice. The user experience from an exhibitor on most virtual platforms is pretty abhorrent as they are the secondary user whose journey was taken into mind when building out these platforms. Now this isn’t a sponsored post for conference solutions but they have come up with the best solution that truly deliver’s the four pillars of the foundation of events because they have taken all users and their journeys into equal account as they built out their platform.
Therefore for connections to be meaningful not only do you have to offer the ability for recommendations but you also have to give the audience a choice by also giving them the ability to filter based on like-minded individuals they would like to meet whether that is exhibitors or peers.
The next pillar is Commerce. Most events do not support the ability for attendees to purchase directly on the show floor with the exhibitors and that is due to many complicated aspects in in which we will not go into. That is not the challenge for organizations to overcome as that is merely more having to do with the city in which the show is taking place.
However, if you look back at all events throughout time Commerce is a huge component of that show that conference or that event. So how is it that in the virtual world we did not take this into consideration when developing the virtual platforms? Now this is not me saying that we needed to have integrations with credit card and processing companies in order for exhibitors to have their products and or services purchased directly from the platforms, it merely means ensuring that we were giving them equal opportunity to have the opportunity to have their product purchased or their service purchased. How does this happen? By allowing meaningful connections to occur within the event during the run of show as well as with the correct virtual platform.
The last and in my opinion the most important pillar of any event is community. For a decade now we have discussed extending the life of our events and in doing so we have never taken the leap. The 3-5 mindset has entrapped all organizers for a decade in a cyclical nature of repeating the same type of event year after year. We as event organizers have sat on one of the most powerful audiences and have yet to embrace a true 365 engagement strategy. Events give us the immense opportunity to take our audience our members and create a community in which interaction and engagement can occur throughout the year. There are community platforms out there, but their sole focus is engaging through forums instead of creating a single source digital ecosystem in which a fragmented user journey is now an experiential amazing user journey. Shameless plug, our platform Hyvve does accomplish this.
If you look outside of the event industry you can see community is the hottest topic. In fact most marketers are now pushing individuals to join their Facebook group as a community, which is not really a true community in my opinion, but by pushing people to a group where they get to share their voice listen to feedback from other peers and be delivered content easily from their mobile device, they are cutting down their acquisition costs for customers in half.
How is this possible?
You see community invokes multiple senses. Marketing and Sales 101 is to storytell and create an imaginary world in which your solution solves all of their challenges. By doing so you are invoking multiple senses through your story and conversations which are now backed by like-minded peers discussing the same challenges and how they overcame them with your products and services.
Community in the simplest term literally has your audience marketing and selling for you all while having them feel a part of your organization and sharing in on your journey with there’s.
So are virtual events terrible for exhibitors or have we as organizers been putting them on incorrectly? I’ll say it’s the latter but that’s not the fault of us as organizers. You see, we were thrown into this pandemic and into virtual events so the first few events that we put on we cannot be blamed for these results. However, as we begin to utilize virtual events into our year round engagement strategy we must understand now that equal opportunity for all the pillars and all of the users an audience of our event must be taken into account when developing the run of show.