But there aren’t enough attendees at your show


But there aren’t enough attendees at your show

Organizers of trade events take a lot of abuse from exhibitors due to the lack of traffic in their booths. Their concern seems always to be the ratio between exhibitor personnel and attendees, or as they say, potential customers. Fair Enough.

This issue usually raises its head on the last day, when the number of attendee badges in the exhibit hall is at its lowest and exhibitors are forced to play on their smart phones or, gasp, talk to each other.

A few years ago I began to wonder just how much business is done between exhibiting companies. Let’s say I sell PARCS systems and you sell meters or multi space machines. I have a customer, a city, that is buying an off street system from me, but has been muttering about upgrading their on street equipment. I am wandering around the exhibit floor and am attracted to your booth. We talk, develop a relationship, and maybe, just maybe, I can help you sell your equipment where I’m selling mine.

Or, perhaps I sell License Plate Recognition equipment and you sell PARCS. Perhaps you are not too happy with the LPR equipment you use. I would kill to have you wander into my booth.

What if, in the sales process, I learn that my customer is just dying to buy what you sell but she doesn’t know you exist. Would it not be reasonable for us to team up and make the deal?

The other day I got a call from an exhibitor who was asking about the number of cities who were in attendance. He sold a very specialized type of parking meter and told me that he only wanted to see cities, no one else.

I posited that there may be 40 or so vendors that also sold to cities, but didn’t sell meters. Perhaps he should spend some time networking with them? Who knows? He just might get a leg up in some city because of a relationship he made at the trade show.

There are hundreds of scenarios just like those above.

When I sold PARCS systems I was constantly running into deals that required something we didn’t make, and I usually found those things when I was wandering around the exhibit hall when the traffic in my booth was slow.

A couple of decades ago, in another life, I was sitting in a booth at a trade event in London. I was bored out of my skull. I decided I was going to stop the next person that walked by and talk to them.

I did. The man told me I didn’t make what he needed. I asked him what he needed and he described a system that we certainly did make, but since this was a security show and not a fire detection show, we didn’t display it.

We talked for and hour and less than a year later I had an order for more than half a million pounds.

I have many stories like that but suffice it to say that successful exhibitors turn their presence into success, no matter what the attendance.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

By the way, we are running well ahead of last year’s attendee bookings at PIE 2018.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. The World is your oyster and only you can make it happen! At a show, it’s a great place to meet people and discover who they are, what they represent and where they are headed. In fact, many times at a show, I’ll engage a conversation with an attendee and/or vendor. If he/she is looking for solutions to their problem which I do not represent, then I see it as an opportunity to personally escort this person to an appropriate show vendor or industry person who can help them with their research. As a result, I may have gained a new network contact (vendor or attendee), and thereby possibly contributing to a win/win for all. As it is prominently said, “Pay It Forward”! You will feel better for it.

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