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April 4, 2008
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Simon Burton: Exhibitions ? why everybody's doing it




Well apparently more of you are doing it. And those of you who are already doing it are having so much fun doing it that you’re planning on doing it even more! In fact, according to a recent study 61% of you are going to spend more money doing it over the next 12 months. It’s the latest must-have craze for marketers and it’s sweeping across the marketing plans of corporate Britain.

It ticks the marketing boxes of targeting and measurability and, of course, like every other craze at the moment (Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Wolfmother, Converse trainers, Harry Potter, jogging, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) you’ve got the nagging feeling you heard or saw it first time round.

Keep your brand trim and healthy
Maybe you even gave it up last time because it seemed like awfully hard work. But now if you want your brand to be trim, healthy and in the zone, you’re going to embrace it wholeheartedly for the simple reason that it works, and once you’re doing it regularly you can see and feel the results.

Event marketing. It’s true, the oldest media: the idea of meeting, engaging and communicating direct with the audience you care about. In person. Marketing doesn’t get anymore direct.

And what’s important is that events themselves are changing. Take your classic, default event “the exhibition”. Row upon row of soulless boxes inhabited by uninspiring staff hiding behind their newspapers and sausages rolls. Well not any more: design; colour; interactivity; data-capture; sustainability; ROI; committed and engaged staff are all de rigeur. The 21st Century exhibition is the epitome of the marriage between live and online. Web-based match-making services help pre-arrange meaningful on-site meetings, 24-7 registration streamlines the badging process, seminars, workshops and networking cafes fill the show floor with relevant and stimulating content.

Organisers too are becoming more savvy, creating value all year round via online communities, hosting satellite events alongside the main event, developing meaningful seminar and workshop content and finding ways of helping exhibitors and visitors alike connect.

On target

And in a world of media fragmentation exhibitions deliver you highly targeted and active audiences who are interested in what you have to say. Not an audience you’ve jumped on via someone else’s content. Visitors attend exhibitions because they want to find our more about the subject matter, because they are engaged, and according to more research, because their businesses are more likely than average to be growing. Rather obviously they need the solutions and partners to take them to the next level. They are, quite simply out there. These are the kind of people companies want as clients – growing, committed, passionate.

This isn’t to say that everything in event land is peachy. There are still challenges. The more focussed and targeted the event the smaller the audience. Quality and quantity are diametrically opposed. And there are still organisers who sell the space and then leave the exhibitors to their own devices.

Missing a trick

Probably one of the biggest challenges to the industry is that most exhibitors are still pretty much awful at the process, admin and logistics far too often being the key components in their stand organising process rather than creativity, design and interactivity. Exhibition stands are “dumped” on the PA in a way that an ad campaign or corporate brochure never would be. Objectives are obscure or muddled and the opportunity wasted. Don’t believe me? Apparently, 87% of exhibition leads are never followed up. I’ll say it again just so you know it’s not a typo. 87% of exhibition leads are never followed up. Hot, enthusiastic, gagging for you opportunities and there simply allowed to slip through your fingers.

The oldest media is the biggest marketing opportunity of the 21st Century. Make sure that you’re hip to the craze this time round.


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