by Michael Hart, Event Consultant and Journalist
While the speed at which business is conducted has been a boon for the trade show industry, we still found that exhibitors simply do not have time for everything their jobs entail.
Show organizers have helped over the last 10 years by automating several processes and applying technology in ways never imagined before. Nevertheless, exhibitors told us, it still isn’t enough.
Organizers can be forgiven for feeling frustrated at hearing that. They have poured millions of dollars into digital tools to make life easier for their exhibitors over the last 10 years, and still they get complaints.
A major key to slowing down the velocity for exhibitor partners is to actually not treat them as invisible. Talk to them and ask:
- In this changing marketplace, what do I need to do differently to help you be successful?
- What kind of data do you want from me and how can I get it to you?
- What are the technologies that help you, and not just me?
- What can I do to help you connect with your customers?
There’s even more that can be done, and some of it might not cost millions of more dollars beyond the original investments that have been made.
- Ask your software developers to think like exhibitors. Your customers are happy not to be lugging around a massive exhibitor handbook in a binder, but they’d like it if it didn’t take 10 minutes to find the one tiny piece of information they’re looking for on your website. Find out what exhibitors are searching for when they come to your site and make it easier for them to find it.
- Let your exhibitors know when you get the online form, they filled out for you. One exhibitor told us, “The show organizer could do better by communicating more and just letting us know if our paperwork is up to date.” Again, have your developers build into the process a simple notification function to signal the exhibitor when you have received something electronically from them.
- Then make it even simpler for them. Some contractors already provide one-stop service that allows exhibitors to order furniture, electrical service, signage, Wi-Fi, carpeting, etc., all at one time and one place. Great! But why do they all not do it? As discovered by MAYA Design in 2008, The Expo Group’s Single Source Solution® is the model for exhibitor service supply-chain management that organizers should consider using.
- Deal with “the last mile.” “Yes,” said one exhibitor, “technology helps with things like tracking, but it’s the last leg from the loading dock to the booth that’s always the problem.” Trade show professionals are not the only ones with this “last mile” conundrum. Amazon is spending tens of millions of dollars figuring out how to get fresh eggs and bananas from the warehouse to your house, so you’re not alone. But maybe you could at least do something! How about a couple of staff members walking the floor during set-up with clipboards and walkie-talkies acting like concierges? You can now track your bags with the airlines across the globe, so it should not be that hard for our industry to deal with “the last mile.”
Lots of technology tips progress has been made, but so much more remains. And organizers must still talk to exhibitors, not just when you’re re-signing them for next year’s show either. Talk to them during the year about their exhibiting goals and how you can help them achieve those goals.
Ask them what you can do for them not to feel invisible.