In the middle of last year, we exhibited our sales productivity platform at a couple of different exhibitions.
Based upon our experiences at these shows, it’s evident that the smaller, more intimate events with paying attendees are much better for generating quality leads. That’s not to say larger events aren’t great; it’s about quality vs quantity.
Here are 3 key things larger events could look to implement to change to help improve their offering.
An emphasis on the product
There is a LOT of noise competing for your potential customer’s attention at a larger event. When we attended the Sales Innovation Expo recently you had a place you could try out VR video games, a stand giving out unlimited free ice cream, and a company providing complimentary massages. All within a 30 second walk of our booth.
It made for an excellent day, but for an SME it’s almost impossible to compete against that level of flash.
At a smaller event, there’s very little in the way of pomp and circumstance. Every exhibitor has the same size table, the same opportunities and is allowed the same number of pop up banners positioned in the same place. Simple and concise. This means every single person who walks up to your table is there with a legitimate level of interest that isn’t swayed by the sheer size of your stand. You can very quickly qualify what level of value your product would provide to each visitor, and then provide them with a full demonstration of the product and discuss next steps if you deem it worthwhile.
An added bonus at the UK Recruiter Expo was that each exhibitor was given a chance to stand up and deliver a 2-minute elevator pitch to every attendee before they were then set loose on the exhibition floor. The beauty of this system was that every person approaching your table was at least slightly pre-qualified, as they already understood who you are, what you offer, and whether or not it is of interest to them.
Make it about the product, not the money
Let’s be real; everyone needs to make a profit. I understand these tradeshows aren’t being put on out of the goodness of someone’s heart. They need to make their money, and the way they do that is offering you a chance to promote your goods and also make money. I’m completely on board with that.
My issue with the way the larger expos conduct themselves is that it forces you in to a financial “member measuring” contest. The smallest stand costs Y. A larger stand costs Y x 2. The largest stand costs Y x 3. Want your stuff in a bag? Extra cost. You want chairs? That’s another extra cost. A table? Extra cost. Want electricity so you can actually display your product? Extra cost. You want to bring in in a break dancing robot that hands out free puppies and advance previews of that film everyone is super excited for? Sure, no problem. Naturally, there will be an extra cost.
In a perfect world every stand would be born equal and it should be up to the company how they want to dress that equal space and present their product.
Naturally money will always play a part. At UK Recruiter, as I mentioned in the previous point, everyone started from the same place for their money. Same table, same layout, same allowance of popups and displays, electricity was included in the cost, and everyone was given the same opportunities to take part in things like the elevator pitches. Money could still be brought in to play; people dressed their tables in interesting ways, had merch to hand out, had different levels of display and presentation, etc. No matter how you displayed your product though, you all had the same space to use. This meant no one dominated visually or bought their way in to being the top dog. Product was king and your ability to sell your product as well as understand the industry space was all you really had to bring to the table.
Perhaps a more standardised starting point would level the playing field at larger events, and attract a far wider reaching group of products and services who might otherwise be priced out of the game.
A genuine chance to network
Have you ever tried to network in a conference hall filled with thousands of people? It’s tricky – everyone’s rushed, they’ve already had hundreds of conversations that day, and there’s a break dancing robot handing out free puppies and advance previews of that film everyone is super excited for that is demanding their attention.
By contrast, the UK Recruiter Expo had a manageable crowd and plenty of windows of opportunity to meet with them. In the centre of the room was the food and hot drinks for the day, which meant at any given moment you could take a stroll over and find a genuine opportunity to connect with someone. There was no real rush to the day, and they didn’t have 1000 more stands they needed to see during the next 2 hours, so there was an opportunity for a genuine discussion about who you are, what you do, and how you can assist each other.
Just from the lunch break alone I added about 20 new faces to my Linkedin network, and these weren’t just meaningless adds. They were all connections where I knew who they were, what they did, what their company provided, and how we could look at potentially working together. Actual genuine social networking, and not just a race to see who can build the largest connection count.
Wrapping things up
Those are my 3 main points on the matter, and we’re coming to the end of the blog. With all of the above points considered, its understandable why larger shows can, at times, alienate the SME crowd. Adopting some of the principles and ideas on display at the UK Recruiter Expo could help bridge that gap. Of course I may change my tune once I get that break dancing robot budget allowance I’ve been pushing for. What are your thoughts? Do you represent an SME or a larger company? What’s your perception of industry events and the value you’ve taken away from them? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Note: This blog post fairly heavily sings the praises of the UK Recruiter Recruitment Agency Innovation, Technology and Social Media Showcase (which I have referred to as the UK Recruiter Expo throughout for the sake of brevity). We are in no way affiliated or partnered with them, nor did we receive any kind of financial or reward based incentive for this post. I just felt it was an excellent event and I believe in credit where credit is due.