The trade show industry is changing. It’s not a big mystery; on the contrary, it’s been happening gradually over the past decade, and savvy event managers have evolved to keep up.
A Changing Industry
The industry is officially at a tipping point where businesses are being forced to acknowledge the staying power of technology and social media and accept the younger generation of workers and show-goers, who have completely different strategies and expectations than the older generation who has been the leader of the pack up until now.
These changes have made it essential to revisit everything, from what shows your company actually attends, to pre-, at-, and post-show marketing strategies, training and retraining of your booth staff, setting customer expectations, and even overhauling the design of your booth and the collateral you have available.
So what does it mean to today’s event manager? In a nutshell: they need to be open to change, and agile enough to implement the strategies that are good for business.
Closing The Generation Gap
Some trade show (and workforce) veterans who have been working shows for decades have very clear ideas about what makes a successful show. From loads of printed collateral to a fish bowl for business cards, shaking hands and collecting leads used to be the name of the game. Younger generations prefer technology and social media over face-to-face communication, and so they tend to focus more on pre-show marketing to ensure they only engage with qualified leads at the show.
A trade show manager has the challenging task of bringing older generations “up to speed” on how their younger customers prefer to communicate while training the younger generation on the importance of building relationships IRL (In Real Life) for clients who aren’t on the technology bandwagon.
Meeting Technology Preference
Speaking of technology, does your company have an active social media presence and following? Do you have content marketing and email marketing strategies in place to communicate with customers and prospects on a regular basis? When was the last time you mailed something to a client? The pattern that’s emerging here is that many businesses have gone nearly totally digital. Even 1-800 customer service numbers seem to be a thing of the past as “chat now” boxes pop up on virtually every website. While your company may fully embrace the digital model, there are many customers and show-goers who vehemently rebel against technology and who still appreciate a glossy, full-color catalog and a long conversation with your top sales rep over scanning a QR code and setting a follow-up meeting.
A trade show manager needs to have a thorough understanding of how your company uses technology, and more importantly, how your customers use it. As with any marketing, you need to meet your customers where they are, even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone to learn, or dial back on certain technology.
The Evolving Trade Show Manager Must Continue To Evolve
Sites like PayScale still list a very general job description for trade show managers that includes, “managing all aspects of trade show operations.” It refers to the barebones logistics of getting to the show, setting up, making nice with everyone, cleaning up and going home. What it fails to highlight is the importance of agility and a strategic mentality that an excellent event manager needs in order to go beyond the basics and execute a successful event.
While being highly organized and detail-oriented used to be the main traits of a trade show manager, today’s candidates must have a much deeper understanding of the evolving trade show industry and, most importantly, how they can use that knowledge to implement innovative strategies for success.