I felt the urge to visit a large consumer show recently to see how exhibitors were performing and how visitors were being treated. I also resolved to visit the show half way through the event and arrive half an hour after the doors opened for the day. My findings make quite interesting reading. During a twenty minute walk through, from one end of the hall to the other and back, I observed the following behaviours.
27 exhibitors were using their mobiles, 3 using their laptops. 8 were reading newspapers and I saw 4 empty stands, bereft of any live personnel. 12 exhibiting companies were engaged in meetings with colleagues and 3 were still having breakfast and drinking on their stand. One was actively ignoring a member of the public who was seated on the edge of their stand, applying make up and fixing her hair. On the up side, 20 people did make eye-contact with me; I managed to elicit 5 smiles and was engaged once. Potentially I was a prospect for most of the companies exhibiting and on this occasion had a modest budget to waste on some frivolity or two.

Considering that these stands represented roughly tem percent of the exhibitors at this event, you can argue that it is not all bad. The old half-full and half-empty syndrome; namely ninety percent of exhibitors were getting it right – or at least not as bad! What frustrates me is the fact that this ten percent did not need to be wasting their money and in fact they will probably cancel next year’s attendance due to ‘poor response’. These same companies also probably had to fight tooth and nail to get a budget in the first place to attend this time. Is this the plight of business these days? Acceptable losses? Surely all the marketing manager or whomever organised the stand had to do was follow a short but effective checklist? Remind the stand staff of their objectives for being there, choose staff wisely, explain their role and provide a modicum of training. Then follow up the leads and convert them into sales. Not rocket science really – just common sense. Therein lies the problem. It sounds so simple. So simple in fact that ten percent of exhibitors overlooked this fact. The show organisers had done their bit – the hard work involved with getting people to the show. The members of the public had also done their bit and purchased entry tickets to be there. What a shame some – ANY of the exhibitors failed to do their bit. The next time you are sat in a board meeting or a marketing meeting discussing the relative merits of whether to participate in an event or not, I do hope you have a clear conscience and can categorically state that the response you had was exactly that – response and not a distillation of that response via your stand personnel?