Do Big Exhibitors do themselves a disservice at Shows like the IPI


Do Big Exhibitors do themselves a disservice at Shows like the IPI

We all know that the numbers (attendee, exhibitor personnel, etc) at trade shows are mostly unknowable. The information we get from the organizers is sketchy, but one thing is certain, there are almost one and a half times as many exhibitor personnel at this IPI event as there are actual attendees. Yes, out of 2500 people at the IPI last year, 1500 or so were exhibitor personnel.  But so what.

There are still 1000 people in attendance that are potential customers.  Are the exhibitors reaching them?  They have spent tens if not hundreds of thousands on their booths and personnel, do they actually see new customers in any appreciable numbers. I say not.

I had a most interesting conversation with an attendee last night. She runs the parking at a medium size city and had well over a million dollars in her pocket to spend on new equipment. She came to the show specifically to learn about what’s out there.  She is an exhibitor’s dream come true.

She told me, however, that she was reluctant to enter those huge booths. She found the size off putting and the fact that the booth staff were all dressed the same.  “They seemed to be wearing armor” she told me.  They weren’t welcoming at all.

Plus, and now I’m paraphrasing, they stood in clusters, talking to themselves, and made it difficult for her, a small woman, to get their attention. She just walked on by.

Wow, a million and change just walking on by.

I had an experience at PIE this year.  An exhibitor was berating me that no one came into his booth. He was sitting reading the newspaper as he complained.  During his diatribe, at least 20 people walked by, paused, and then went on.  I told him I could get them in front of his booth, it was up to him to get them in.

In the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” the Judi Dench character was hired as a consultant at an Indian call center to train the staff how to talk to British. She described the problems she had dealing with the center and gave them hints on how to better serve their customers.  I told my friend last night that I thought she could make big bucks consulting with exhibitors  who spent so much money and got so little in return.

I”m rearranging our booth today. I’m moving the table to the back and putting the chairs in front. We are going to welcome people into our little stand and talk to them, not to ourselves.  I’m ordering a couple of more chairs so people can sit, take a load off.

We laugh at PIE that we are a boutique show with small intimate booths where you can actually talk to people and get good information. The info you need isn’t cluttered with marketing chatter and as I like to say, “elephants and dancing girls.”

These major events claim that they are for learning and networking, and then put on networking events (and vendors are guilty of this too) that are so crowded and noisy that its impossible to actually talk and network.

Make your booth welcoming. Give visitors a soft drink and a place to sit and talk. Ask about their problems, don’t deluge them with your solutions. Find out if your product is something they need. You can actually do that in the first two minutes.  If not, let them go.

Send your smarmy sales staff to school to learn social graces. Face outward. Stand in the aisles and welcome people into your huge booth. Don’t make attendees seek you out, seek them out, casually and with reality. If I hear “Hi John, how are you today” one more time I’m going to scream.

The IPI is almost over, only two sessions left to go. You spent upwards of a quarter of a million on your booth. Make it count.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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