Produce trade shows: then, now and in the future

10/10/2013 08:48:00 AM
Tom Karst

 New digital technology allows for construction of a virtual trade show – the term even has its own Wikipedia entry. Even for a massively attended event like the Fresh Summit, much planning for the PMA’s Fresh Summit can be done online.

The technology providing instant communications and high speed answers make it more problematic to wait and unveil new products at a trade show.

A recent story about the future of trade shows - “what tradeshows might look like in 2016” - said this about those who think the existing model will continue to function, with some modifications.

"This scenario looks much like the existing tradeshow model. No matter how spectacular the technology, it cannot replace powerful face-to-face meetings and large-scale, annual gatherings of like-minded individuals that have been the backbone of the tradeshow industry. In this scenario, change will happen gradually, and the fundamental metric is reaching attendance goals in the exhibition halls. The problem with this scenario is that being late to the future means losing muscle in reacting to competitors that are implementing change."

What will produce shows look like in 2016? There may be more Smartphone apps, more digital connections and potentially a tougher market to attract exhibitors and buyers.

We can only hope there will be avocado bags and chocolate-covered strawberries.


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Duane Eaton    
PMA  |  October, 10, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Tom, In a 1995 PMA Board presentation on the future of conventions and trade show I wrote: "A question we need to consider is 'Will the convention and exposition become one of these obsolete tools?' Will teleconferencing, virtual reality trade shows (on CD-rom, over the Internet, etc.), compact disc product catalogues, digital compression, interactive video communications, on-line file sharing, company downsizing, the consolidation of buying power, the growing outsourcing of operations functions, the growth of the virtual office, etc., etc., etc., combine in some way to make the convention and exposition an obsolete concept?" Here we are 21 years later and you are posing a similar question. It is a question that our staff, volunteer committees and Board consider on a regular basis. At PMA our daily mantra is "how do we add more member value?" That is really the key to the future of any event or any organization. If you can contune to provide and add member/customer/shareholder value you will continue to be successful. Tom, I have to argue that the trade show has changed quite a bit over the past 25 years. Exhibitors are more attuned to offering solutions rather than products, marketing to get buyers into your booth continues to shift to digital, booths are better designed to conduct business, education sessions are more interactive, and so on... Yes we still have avocado bags and chocolate strawberries, but those bags are now made for laptops, tablets and smart phones instead of notepads and pens. See you in New Orleans.

Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  October, 10, 2013 at 02:14 PM

It's also a day shorter, with only 2 full days of expo time. That shows respect for attendees' valuable time.

Tom K    
Lenexa  |  October, 10, 2013 at 02:32 PM

Good thoughts Duane. "Disruptive" innovations are liable to break out anywhere, including trade shows. Keeping ahead of the changes is the challenge. Tom

cindy    
Calif  |  October, 14, 2013 at 04:24 PM

I am interested in seeing this conversation continue and would welcome many opnions on the mattter. I am very intrigued and pleased to read today's story about Dole changing their focus at the PMA by keeping it in line with their specific goals also used at the United convention in the spring. It makes sense and it makes me think we should follow suit within our own company focus for trade shows moving forward. Our time at both conventions is spent meeting with our key customers, so why not have our space either on our off the show floor support that very important activity for our staff. Conventions are about those important but infrequent face to face meetings, but also sharing innovations in the industry and new opportunities, so how can we all ensure that the time works for us in a way that is best for our company and long term business relationships?

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