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Is a Trade Show Revival Coming?

I was recently asked about our current involvement with Trade Shows as manufacturer’s reps and thought some of the following might be of interest.


Trade Show Attendance Was Dwindling Before Covid


Many in our industry, myself included, have spent years, even decades, frequenting trade shows, product showcases, symposiums, etc. These include local events, as well as distributor counter days, training classes, and various association and guild presentations to name a few. However, over the last few years several disruptions have impacted these important, in-person events.


Long before the pandemic disrupted lives and put the world on hold, travel budgets were being constrained for both vendors and customers. Speaking specifically about our sectors, (Telcos, MSO’s, Data Centers, Municipals, Utilities, etc), “tier one” customers and tier 2’s and 3’s had all but stopped domestic travel for anything outside their office parking lots, exhibitors were forced to respond in kind. The requirements to get internal approval to attend an event that involved travel, hotel, etc, made it difficult to make the case. From a cost/benefit perspective, the thought was that online webinars, and the wealth of information on the web provided far more than an in-person event could. Of course, we know that isn’t the case.


Many of our vendors, associates and competitors have reduced staffing at their show booths, sometimes splitting booth space among 2 or even 3 vendors to further decrease their spend, have pulled back on participating in training and new product presentations, and opted to go to screens and graphics to replace equipment and materials that are too costly to ship to these venues by comparison.


Some of our largest customers deployed National CFST’s (Cross Functional Sourcing Teams) comprised of members from various disciplines (Construction, Maintenance, Installation & Repair, Engineering, Sourcing, etc). They would traditionally meet quarterly or semi-annually and did so for many years before the entire free world became totally immersed in ”Zoom-ing”. Many other companies have various committees as well, coupled with outside 3rd party assistance, such as Telcordia, ITL’s (Independent Test Labs) and the like. We would meet with many of these contacts at trade shows in concert and discuss mutual goals and appropriate opportunities to assist in planning.


Since budgets constricted travel and activity started to wane, we had hoped to see these personalities at least occasionally frequent national, or perhaps regional/local shows.


The Pandemic Reminded Us of the Importance of In-Person Events


The loss of personal interaction at these events, accelerated by the pandemic, have real impacts. Many of the key contacts/decision makers have been hobbled by these travel constraints and have not been able to interact with legacy vendors to discuss problems or concerns. The same applies to exhibitors showing new products and exploring ways to develop their wares for their customers to enhance their competitive edge. This alone has held back many businesses from nurturing customers and improving their position in their respective markets.


While the importance of trade shows was slowly waning, the elimination of them during the pandemic reminded everyone how important these in-person events our to driving innovation and engagement across industries and disciplines. When you completely take something away, with very little notice, people will realize what they lost and want it back.


It may come as no surprise that people want to get out again and participate at shows and symposiums again after being cooped up throughout Covid! We want to engage with suspects, prospects, customers, vendors, associates, competitors, and on and on to facilitate business opportunities and strengthen ties with market contacts.


Expect to see a Renaissance in In-Person Events


We’re all hopeful that we’ll see travel continue to open, whether locally, nationally or globally to support these events when appropriate.


Often in my career, I have been involved from “cradle to grave” with products borne on the wings of these shows and symposiums. These are products that delivered cost savings and valuable solutions for our customers. There are only two ways in this world for businesses to prosper. Either increase revenue or decrease expenses, plain and simple!


Many products that simply “work better” can also be accompanied by other benefits, such as those that improve safety for instance. This can transcend both personal…short term to protect against electrocution, explosions, or fall arresting for instance, and long term to prevent things that may be toxic or carcinogenic as examples or pose other health hazards. These may also include environmental benefits, as well as those that reduce labor, limit truck rolls, avoid the need for permits and decrease litigation and legal fees, and many other expenses.


Most, if not all, of these products and services are typically displayed at the shows, where a potential customer can interact with the it, ask specific questions, and being the journey from potential customer to actual customer.


Hopefully you are reading this from the airport or on a plane on your way to a show! We’ll see you there!


Ken Eldred

Eldred Communications LLC

203-972-3455 O

https://eldredcomm.com