Every trade show delivers something different to its markets. For some the balance of delivery is about knowledge transfer and for others it is about the meetings that take place on exhibitor’s stands, elsewhere at the venue and in the evenings in hotels, restaurants and bars. Experience has shown me that on balance, the more that an event is focussed on ‘meetings’ the more senior the level of visitors and the more senior the level of exhibiting personnel. Which in turn attracts further senior people, because senior people meet with senior people. It is no secret that the holy grail for any trade show is to become the meetings place for the industry it serves.
Having meetings at trade shows is about time efficiency. Senior personnel from visiting companies and exhibiting companies are expensive commodities and providing them with the ability to have business meetings across two or three days saves expensive travel time.
If we look at a typical ‘net promoter score’ (NPS) for a ‘meetings focussed’ event we can see how the ratings increase dramatically based on the number of meetings that visitors had at the show. An NPS rating of 65 is world class delivery.
The general manager from an Australian airport put it like this, “Routes (the UBM global peripatetic) is the very best use of my time. I have 20 meetings over two days. They may not produce anything tangible, only time will tell. The thing is I would have to have the meetings anyway and having them at this show saves me time and money”.
A C-Level (CEO, COO, CFO etc.) utilities manager from mainland Europe said about European Utility Week, the Amsterdam based Clarion smart energy event: “coming here is like Christmas, you meet colleagues. A market place to see and discuss what is happening with other utilities and vendors. It is a great event to discuss progress. Mostly networking and where others are in the development chain. In my role in my company this is a must attend event”
Commenting on the Big 5 construction exhibition in Dubai a Saudi Arabian developer said: “This is our annual sourcing time and everything is in one place. We have a lot of developments and we need to source products and agree contracts. We can meet with our current contractors and suppliers and with potential new suppliers but we can also meet with financial people and legal people and we can have them all in one room here in Dubai while Big 5 is on because they are all here”.
In each of these three examples the value provided to the visitors and exhibitors is enormous. The results of these meetings are often worth millions of dollars and for the Saudi Arabian developer it was around $2.5 billion. In fact for most of the meetings based events that we work with a positive end result inevitably has a high value tag to it.
If we look at a typical meetings trade show we can see that there are many different types of meetings taking place.
From this visitor research we can see that almost 20% of visitors are arranging distributor agreements and 80% are having meetings with companies they are considering doing business with. 60% of visitors are having meetings with companies they are considering partnering with and if we look specifically at C-Level visitors we know that 80% of these high level visitors are having meetings with others that they are considering partnering with. As we have seen, many of these meetings will a have a high intrinsic value whether they are successful in their outcome or not and this brings us to the value of intervention?
Organisers, in seeking to gain the best commercial value for their event brand must understand the type and value of meetings that take place. Then they must seek to develop intervention products that enable visitors to meet with exhibitors, visitors to meet with visitors and exhibitors to meet with other exhibitors. In fact, understanding how they can intervene at all points in the supply and value chains to ensure that people who want to connect can connect.
There can be significant commercial value to intervention and organisers should not be leaving meetings to serendipity. There are still organisers who present exhibitors as an alphabetical listing with little intervention to enable visitors to pre-plan and optimise the value of their visit.
The provision of meetings intervention products can influence the nature and structure of an event with, for example, paid for networking and one-to-one meetings and also the development of digital communities. I have heard some organisers say that they cannot make money out of intervention and others who do it very well. The ones who do it well know their markets. To ensure the long-term resilience of event brands, organisers will have to adapt their model to provide intervention in the meetings process.
They must also ensure that the right buyers meet with the right sellers, and that potential partners, distributors and agents can meet up. If we understand how to create revenues and profits, and also strengthen the brand relationship with the markets through intervention in the meetings process then making the investment should be easier.