Breathe New Life Into the Trade Show Industry with These Four Transformations

November 23, 2014

The trade show industry has a rich history of celebrating new ideas that are on the bleeding edge of innovation. It has grown into a multibillion-dollar behemoth, yet it’s stagnated with the rules and regulations put in place to help big companies get ahead.

Trade shows are by far one of the most effective channels for marketing and networking, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement or that exhibitors aren’t still underserved.

It’s time for trade associations and vendors to start thinking about the next phase of development with these long-overdue changes:

1. Lower Costs for Exhibitors

Trade shows are one of the most effective lead-generation channels for B2B marketers, so many exhibitors and vendors have made a habit of inflating price tags and milking every possible cent from exhibitors.

Problems like not knowing the full cost at the time of registration drive startups and Fortune 500 companies to choose alternative marketing initiatives and even bring events in-house.

Allowing associations to package products and services ahead of time, provide transparent pricing and save exhibitors money would encourage more companies to participate. Plus, if trade shows were more affordable, companies would be able to exhibit at more shows, increasing participation and creating a demand for more events. Competition would drive down expenses, and associations could introduce a handful of extra vendors to their selections to help control costs organically.

2. Increase Exhibitor Advocacy

Exhibitors are often the only paying entities at trade shows, which makes them the lifeblood of events. Unfortunately, they’re usually treated as an afterthought, rather than the main focus. The industry is operating like a large company that thinks it’s too big to put its clients’ needs first.

Associations need to become advocates for their exhibitors and take ownership of their events. Remember that exhibitors are preparing for many events with many deadlines while adhering to strict budgets. They need tools to quickly and effectively plan, order, manage, and report on all these events.

The first show that outwardly advocates for exhibitors and adapts to their challenges will reap incredible rewards.

3. Improve Communication Between Players

Everyone involved in trade shows has the same goals: to make money, provide valuable networking and content and create memorable experiences. So why aren’t we working together to reach these goals?

For some reason, all trade show entities are currently operating in silos. Exhibitors deal with associations, associations deal with vendors and vendors deal with exhibitors. Vendors are left guessing at how to serve their clients’ needs, while associations are fielding unnecessary complaints on top of managing their members’ needs. Meanwhile, exhibitors are being blindsided by high costs. Even industry events, such as the EXHIBITOR show and the ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, are separated.

Opening lines of communication and coordinating efforts would minimize or eliminate many problems the industry currently faces. We could simplify trade shows, bring down costs, increase business, and foster a new era of bigger, more profitable shows.

4. Consolidate Ordering

Ordering is a huge pain point for exhibitors. Multiple vendors with PDF forms, disparate online ordering systems, on-site orders, deadlines, early-bird discounts, and late penalties make the ordering process time consuming and expensive.

Standardizing these antiquated systems would mean exhibitors could spend less time worrying about the details and more time planning out their goals for the event. A single point of ordering would allow for instant reporting and reconciliation (just like receiving a folio at the end of a hotel stay), and the money they could save by avoiding late penalties would allow them to attend more shows.

The trade show industry is poised for growth in 2015 and 2016, but a lot needs to change for events to capture even more marketing dollars. Streamlining the industry would lower costs for exhibitors, meaning more organizations would participate and breathe new life into the show space.

Instead of focusing on the little ways to make a quick buck, all trade show entities need to start working together to improve the experience and make it more profitable for everyone.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.