11 weeks into lockdown in the UK and a number of our key exhibition centres remain set up as Nightingale Hospitals. The industry still has little clarity on when and how exhibitions and large events might be able to open again safely and we’re hearing that many organisers, venues and suppliers are reporting significant income decline of over 50% (https://exhibitionnews.uk/45-of-organisers-believe-they-have-lost-61-100-of-revenue/).

So there’s very little to be positive about in relation to exhibitions then? Well, no not quite actually. There is a HUGE amount of work being done behind the scenes to collaborate and develop frameworks, initiatives and safety measures to get everyone back on the show floor as soon as possible. Some of these discussions have produced a collective thought that visitors numbers could be significantly reduced, especially in the early days of events re-opening. Whilst this might have event organisers shaking in their shoes, here at ProExTra where we’re continually frustrated by the industry’s obsession with big numbers, we’re firmly of the belief that this could deliver better quality interactions and more profitable outcomes for both exhibitors and visitors. HOW COME? Let me explain!

MORE ENGAGED VISITORS – it might feel like it’s a bit harder work for visitors to attend exhibitions safely, with suggestions of more detailed registration processes, temperature checks, designated visiting times and increased hygiene measures all likely to be implemented over the coming months. Coupled with travel restrictions remaining in place for some regions, and a general anxiety about being in crowds it could mean that there are likely to be fewer tyre-kickers who fancy a day out of the office, pottering around the show floor. Those visitors who do commit the time and energy to go to a trade show are likely to more serious buyers, with a stronger intention to seek out solutions for their business or build collaborative relationships with others in the industry. In short, fewer time wasters, more serious buyers.

LESS TIME FILTERING – because visitors are more likely to be serious buyers, who are looking for solutions, the conversations with exhibitors are equally likely to be more direct and get to the heart of the issue more quickly. For exhibitors, this means they’ll be using up less of their valuable time engaging in small talk with a visitor who doesn’t really know what they’re looking for … but who wants to spend ten minutes talking about the roadworks they got caught up in on the way to the show. If visitors are given designated, and limited time on the show floor, they themselves will be conscious of the clock ticking and want to move the conversation onto some of the more detailed and logistical aspects of your product or service.

MORE TARGETED FOLLOW-UP – we’re often sharing with you the industry statics that suggests only around 13% of leads are ever followed up after a show. When we talk to exhibitors about the reasons why they don’t follow up they often tell us that they’ve collected so many un-categorised leads they don’t know where to start on having a meaningful conversation, so once they’re back in the office it slips into the ‘too hard’ box. Fewer visitors, but more engaged conversations at the show will mean fewer contacts to follow up with, BUT the potential for a much high conversion rate as there will be far fewer tyre-kickers amongst those contacts. There are suggestions that giveaways, literature and any other hand-out materials won’t be allowed on the show floor so any brochures or leaflets will need to be sent electronically after the show – giving exhibitors a great reason to send that follow-up email. This all results in a more bespoke and targeted follow-up process that’s more meaningful for both the exhibitor and the visitor.

Whilst there are solid indications that fewer, but better quality visitors are of huge benefit to exhibitors, it’s not without its hard work. As we shared in a webinar for The Department for International Trade yesterday, more than ever this means that exhibitors will need to nail their proposition and benefit, have a laser like understanding of their target audience and work their pre-show marketing hard to start the dialogue long before the show doors open… but that’s exactly what any good exhibitor would be doing before any show, regardless of the Covid-19 factor. So if you’re an exhibitor who’s doubting whether you should still exhibit now you’re hearing visitor numbers might be lower, don’t doubt it, just do it! With fewer, better quality visitors there has never have been a better time to exhibit, with engaged and enthusiastic prospects who need your solution to get their business back on track. In the world of exhibitions, bigger definitely isn’t always better.

If you need some help getting your exhibition strategy back on track why not get in touch and let us help you write your blueprint for success – get in touch at proextra@12th-man-solutions.co.uk

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