Dear Exhibitors – Attendees Would Like to See You at Shows

October 31, 2021

Rachel Wimberly

Rachel Wimberly is Executive Vice President of Business Development at Tarsus Group, US. Follow her on Twitter @TSNN_Rachel.

As the trade show industry started coming back to life over the summer and everyone collectively held their breaths hoping beyond hope that the attendees would show up – something very unexpected happened.

The attendees arrived in force – ready to buy and in good numbers – but what actually was missing in a lot of cases were the exhibitors.

We all know marketing budgets were slashed and the uncertainty around whether attendees would be at a show or not, along with some corporate travel bans, all are reasons exhibitors may not have been on the floor.

But – we need to help them understand what they are really missing out on, so they don’t continue to make the mistake of waiting on the sidelines.

For example, I was speaking with a venue manager recently who told me an interesting story about a show that’s in his building.

It’s a show that brings in a big group of product manufacturers in a specific retail sector and the attendees are owners of stores from the entire region who place annual orders.

The average exhibitor can book several million dollars in orders at the show, especially since many of the stores did not have the opportunity to check out products firsthand and buy them in the past 18 months.

The venue manager told me there were some exhibitors who didn’t come this year and others who were on hand had a great show and  told him:  ‘There is no way to replace that kind of money just making sales calls one by one.’

I completely agree and heard the same sentiment from an exhibitor at Tarsus Group’s Offprice show that ran in early August in Las Vegas.

The team that runs that show were nervous about how many attendees were going to be there. The doors opened, and the attendees showed up – in fact, more than 85% from the prior show in a non-pandemic time.

However, about half the exhibitors decided not to take a chance on the show.

As a result, though, the exhibitors who were there had a GREAT show since the attendees onsite were very motivated buyers and placed good orders.

In fact, one of the exhibitors told me it was ‘the best show he’s ever had’ and called a friend of his who usually exhibits at the show in front of me and told him – ‘You are really missing out!’

According to a recent survey conducted by Explori for UFI’s “Global Recovery Insights 2021” report, businesses queried have been unable to replicate the value of trade shows.

Sixty-six percent said they had ‘reduced networking opportunities’; 51% said their brand exposure still was being impacted; and 44% said they still had overall fewer leads being generated.

In the same survey, 72% of existing visitors said they plan to attend trade shows with the same or increased frequency in the future; 16% say they plan to attend much more frequently in the future; while only 4% of respondents fell into this category back in 2018.

In other words, the attendees may be signing up later than usual, so shows may not be able to tell exhibitors how many people exactly are going to be there several months out, but the attendees ARE coming, and they ARE buying - so don’t miss out!

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: