Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trade Shows, Why are They (Still) Here?

If you are coming from IT industry, then you have probably already heard this claim, "Public business events are going to be replaced with internet technologies like web, webinars and social media."

And yet trade shows are still here. Why?

One thing is true. Internet technology offers strong means for almost any company to present their products and services to the world. Besides presentation there are also several options available for promotion like sponsored links, banners and promotional video clips. In most cases a company can build a technically more convincing presentation on the web than at the trade show. A promotion on the web can last forever. Usually, a web based promotion costs less than a public appearance at the trade show.

But trade shows have one unique advantage, which could never be replaced with web. They are personal, first hand, human, if you will. They are more aligned to a human nature than internet technologies. People go to trade shows not just to see products, but mostly to meet people, potential business partners and customers. Intuition and intangible quality play a major role here.

That is why I think trade shows are still around and they will be here for quite some time, until we discover a way to transfer authentic personal touch over the web - if ever.


Rob Handley said...

I think we already discovered a way to add authentic personal touch over the web...social media. The benefits of social media aren't in the technology itself, but are in the way people use it. Many who are using social media are still communicating with the same mindset...traditional, fearful.

Social media is a breakthrough because it allows more free-style, personalized communication...you can type thoughts and express your identity in creative ways and be recognized for it (a core human need). One might argue that its not "authentic" unless its face to face, but all that really matters is one's perception...if the user perceives the communication as "authentic"...its authentic. An important thing will be providing environments that are user-friendly and encourage people to express their creative thoughts...without fear of rejection or ridicule. I still think trade shows will be around for a long time due to the fact that social media is still in its infancy...people will take time to catch up...some might never catch up...and these people will want tradeshows. It's a social revolution driven by technology...so there will undoubtedly be gaps.

David Autrey said...

I am part of an industry that uses tradeshows heavily. I agree that it is the face to face interaction that keeps people coming. No matter how sophisticated technology and social networking becomes, I don't believe the "authentic personal touch" can be replaced. Thanks for the post.

Maja Terzič said...

Our company has just been exhibiting at two shows in the labeling industry and we have just had these conversations that your blog applies to. For our organisation, the main point should be meeting new potentials, potential business partners, but it turns out in fact that the main point we achieve at every show, is harmonizing the relationship we have with existing business partners. We tend to use every show as a big meeting room for all the partners we already had before and are there for visiting or exhibiting purposes. Although the cost of each exhibition comes up to 25k EUR for a 20m2 booth, it seems to cover the costs the sales personnel would have if they wanted to travel around the world to meet those persons in their company. It's most probable that we will continue to exhibit on some shows, but it the only goal of the company is to seek new potentials, that seems like a lottery approach. Waiting there for good business partners to come by. So in our case it's useful to know lots of people that are going to show up and to arrange meetings. Meeting them there in person turns out to have precious value to our "building relationship" tension in past time, and furthermore, you have more time there to discuss important things you cannot really do via telephone. In our case, exhibitions are a true must, however, dedicated more to existing business network and of course, while you are at it, why not pick up some new potentials? After all, in our industry (labeling and automatic identification), some of our rivals decided not to participate on exhibitions. The reaction of customers was simple - oh, they don't exist anymore, they must be in trouble not to be on exhibitions anymore. I don't neglect the power of social networks, but in our case, raising brand awareness at exhibitions might be more important at this moment. The mentioned exhibitions were Labelexpo in Brussels and Logintern in Nurnberg, Germany.