A Perspective on the Value of Face-to-Face

Blog Post Written by Barry Siskind

The recent CEIR report entitled Exhibition Staff Practices focuses on
an issue that I have been dealing with for the thirty years I have been in
the exhibition business – Exhibit training.

The first finding in the report unveils a difference between attendee
preferences of the booth staff they would like to meet with a strong exhibitor reliance on
staffing their booth with primarily sales folks.

What may have been quite acceptable in the past needs to be re-examined in
light of the previous CEIR reports which have shown how the changing
demographics of those who attend will affect the type of information they
want. Today’s attendee and those of the near future are less interested in being
sold. They would rather engage in the process of finding solutions to the
problems they face. Yet, exhibitors continue to staff their booths with
sales people.

The second part of this report looks at the issue of staff training. Fifty
two percent of exhibitors rarely or never provide staff training while
eighteen percent only provide training at major shows.
So, the issue is why? One reason is a mistaken belief that sales people are
best able to handle exhibit traffic without the need for the specialized
training that would be required with non-sales people.

I believe there is another more important reason. The majority of companies
who participate in exhibitions have never taken specialized training
seriously. Lots of resources are put into the look and feel of their exhibit
but ensuring that staff understands their role in the exhibit has been left
to chance.

I’m not pointing to all exhibitors when I say this. Those companies who
produce great results are the first to take advantage of training. The rest
look at it as an unjustified expense.

So, whose responsibility is it to train? The answer here is that each of the
stakeholders (exhibitors, exhibitions managers and suppliers) has a role to play in
the training of companies who participate in trade exhibitions.

Exhibitions managers and suppliers have a unique vantage point. They often can see
crucial mistakes before they become evident to the exhibitors. The result of
their inaction is a disgruntled company that ultimately reduces its
investment because the results they receive are lackluster at best.

After thirty years and mountains of research, I am still left scratching my
head. What can we as an industry do to ensure that trade exhibitions are
understood and used to create the results they were meant to?

Barry Siskind is President and Founder of ITMC. He is a trade show consultanttrainer, speaker and internationally recognized expert in trade and consumer shows.

2 Comments on A Perspective on the Value of Face-to-Face

  1. Shobha Menon // March 13, 2013 at 5:08 am // Reply

    I am a researcher on trade shows. One interesting aspect is whether the objectives of exhibitors and visitors match .This varies from case to case.

  2. Shobha, thank you for that observation, you’re absolutely right. To have a mutually beneficial interaction, ideally objectives of both exhibitors and attendees should match. We know through research that two primary objectives of exhibitors is building brand awareness and sales lead generation, activities preceding making sales as well as to maintain relationships with existing customers. Another CEIR study compares the importance exhibitors and attendees place on interacting face to face at exhibitions at each stage of the purchasing process and shows alignment is best at pre-purchase and customer relationship stages. The full report is available at: http://www.ceir.org/store_products.view.php?id=2516. To evaluate top ranked marketing and sales objectives of exhibiting companies and for which of these objectives they assign high value to use exhibitions, visit: http://www.ceir.org/store_products.view.php?id=2464.

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