Successful Exhibiting Series…
Exhibiting can be extremely rewarding. This is the second of a series of articles exploring what it takes to
make “shows” really work for you. Colin Green reports…
Exhibiting at the Right Show(s)…
In our last article we considered the importance of focussing closely on appropriate Objectives and on your
Target Market when exhibiting. Having determined exactly what you want to achieve and who you want to attract, it’s
important to be sure that you’re at the right show.
The following is far from exhaustive but is helpful in determining if a particular show is right for you.
Will Your Audience be there?
Of course! The brochure said so! But how does the Organiser know who will come? How can you be sure? Organisers
can tell you who they plan to attract and what the demographics of past shows have been. It’s your exhibiting
dollar, so verify the audience.
Trade v Consumer Exhibitions
Exhibitions fall into two broad categories – Trade Shows and Consumer Shows (also called
Public Shows). Virtually all shows are Trade or Consumer or variations.
One well-known corporate exhibitor exhibited at a show for four years before determining that it didn’t fit
their demographic needs. It was an easy error to make - although simple enough to spot when their Objectives and
Target Market became clear. The company was a large photocopier manufacturer. Their primary objective was to win
corporate and government customers and the exhibition was a trade event. It became clear that they required a
corporate consumer event.
Trade show buyers buy to trade. Consumer show buyers consume. Trade shows have a lower buyer-to-exhibitor ratio
and buyers have a far greater “potential worth” than their consumer show counterparts. That’s not to say that
consumer shows don’t generate very large revenues. Figures from consumer shows are often staggering!
Because the photo copier company was selling to businesses (trading organisations) the distinction while blurred
was still potent. Although they were promoting to traders those organisations were consumers of
the equipment. It’s an important distinction to watch for.
Many shows are both trade and consumer perhaps with trade days and public days – or they may mix the
daily audience. You need to identify and “switch hats” for the different audiences.
Trade exhibitions usually “badge” buyers. Consumer shows don’t – buyers simply buy their tickets and walk into
the show. While that’s not iron-clad, it’s an excellent “quick clue” as to the nature of the show.
Trade shows tend to be far more the "norm" in the USA than in many other regions such as Australia, which have a
higher concentration of Consumer Shows. The confusion of the terminology can lead to very expensive errors in
methodology & Target Market focus!
Question the Database…
Organisers often use a database of past attendees to draw the audience. While a wonderful tool, it’s only part
of the solution. Commercial databases age at least 20% per annum – that is, buyers last five years or less
at a position.
Request Audit Verification
Have previous shows been audited? It’s not an automatic death knell if they haven’t – until recently many
exhibitions were not audited. But good Organisers – the ones that sincerely want to deliver results you’ll be
delighted with – are increasingly having their shows independently audited. Ask for the audit report to verify the
demographics. Is yours there?
The Australian Circulations Audit Board ( www.auditbureau.org.au
) audits exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (
www.abc.org.nz ) do not audit exhibitions and have no plans to do so at this point. The UK’s Audit Bureau of
Circulation’s web is www.abc.org.uk and in the USA the Trade Show Exhibitors Assn (TSEA) is www.tsea.org/page_206.php Google will find others globally.
Where are the Organisers advertising and/or doing editorial? Request the media list (print, radio, TV) where
promotion is planned. Every editor knows their audience as they must publish news and articles for that market – or
they won’t sell their publications! Do enough of those publications match your Target Market to satisfy
your Objectives? This is a powerful and easy test to apply. (It’s especially potent for the next article in this
series too which will address some powerful and cost-effective marketing opportunities). DO verify that the
publications and media ARE being utilised. If the Organisers can’t give you the list, be afraid. Be VERY afraid…
Conversely if details are cheerfully supplied that is a very big “plus” for that show – assuming your demographic
Education and Entertainment
At trade – and increasingly at consumer events too – the audience seeks to be educated. They seek to learn
“what’s new” and to compare technologies, ideas and opportunities. Everyone likes to be entertained too. So what is
offered at the show that will draw your Target Audience? What special reasons is the show offering for
them to go?
This may be your own special opportunity. What could you supply that would draw your Target Market? Could you
supply an educational experience or entertainment that you could “sell” to the Organisers? Good Organisers are
receptive to great ideas – if contacted early enough to include in their promotions.
Calculate your Potential Audience
How many of YOUR Target Audience will be at the show? Exhibit Surveys Inc in the USA (www.exhibitsurveys.com ) developed a clever method to calculate your Potential
- Obtain the Net Attendees of the show from the Organisers – don’t include exhibitors, organisers or
journalists. Audited figures are helpful here.
- Multiply Net Attendees by a factor between 35% and 57%. The more focussed the show the higher the factor.
General events would be around 35%. Focussed “niche” events would be nearer 57%. Make a judgement within that
range. The result is the Audience Interest Factor in the diagram – how “interested” delegates
are in the show in general.
- After considering the demographics (again, audited figures are most helpful), “guesstimate” the percentage
of the show genuinely interested in what YOU provide. Be realistic. It may be as low as 5% or as high as 30% or
even higher! If you’re not sure select 16% - the average. This is your audience Product
- Multiply the Audience Interest with the Product Interest. The result is
your Potential Audience – the number of your hot prospects you should find at the
Test the formula. It’s almost magical –thought provoking and extremely helpful in show selection, performance
review and many other measures.
Consider the financial stability of the Organiser. Most are stable, but there have been instances of Organisers
“going bust” and exhibitors left as unsecured creditors. It pays to be prudent. Is the show growing in terms of
audience, exhibitor numbers and space sold? If not, why? It may be deliberate to improve results – or maybe
something else… Consider doing a credit check. If the Organisers are listed on the ASX, NYSE etc, how are they
Are there any “special” factors that might make exhibiting attractive? A “pavilion” you could join? State and
federal Government often offer these and they can be excellent value and in sharing the load of exhibiting. Having
the company of your peers is usually uplifting and encouraging. Sometimes shows have special areas that may be
perfect for you.
Are assistance funds available? State governments often target specific shows and offer funding as does the
Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) (www.austrade.gov.au) and NZ Trade and Enterprise. (www.nzte.govt.nz ).
Be a little cautious of these promotions. If the show does not “fit” your needs, don’t do it! Even government
officers have quotas to fill at show-time!
Who Else is There?
Are your competitors exhibiting? Did they exhibit in earlier years? Their presence – or lack of it – is not
necessarily a reason to exhibit - or not to either – but it’s certainly a consideration. If you’re not there buyers
can’t compare you!
Are complementary companies exhibiting? Organisations that will draw your Target Audience and that you may be
able to form alliances with? Refer to your Objectives – a single new alliance might make it very much worth while
While you’re exhibiting, continually monitor what you’re feeling, what opportunities you may have missed, what
others seem to be achieving. Save your thoughts and re-read them very carefully when deciding on your participation
next time. Time blurs insights and you’ll find this extremely helpful.