Why are you so critical of digital signage tradeshows?

Posted by on Mar 27, 2011 in Advertising

I was having a conversation the other day with a fellow “digital signager” regarding the goodness and not so goodness of tradeshows and other industry events. He was blunt. He lambasted anything that had to do with an industry tradeshow, regardless of what industry you are in. He said they were always a big waste of money and are not able to get your name out there as cheaply as any other type of

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Here are some things I really think are beneficial about industry-related tradeshows:

  • Networking, networking, networking. There is no better place to rub shoulders with people who are smarter, who have more experience and who are able to connect you to the right people where you will be able to execute and increase your return on investment. I love tradeshows for this.
  • Up-and-coming. We are in a technology industry and unfortunately, that means creative destruction is rampant. That means if you are not up on the latest and greatest, then you will get left in the dust. And, unfortunately, not every new wiz-bang device gets written up in industry blogs. Sometimes, just sometimes things are kept hush/hush until a press release goes out. Isn’t that pretty traditional?
  • Sales leads. This is also the ugly side, but there are certainly organizations who attend such events to buy. They are there. You may need to find them.
  • Training. Great speakers where you can get you can gobble up information to your heart’s content on anything from signage audio to proper implementation.

Here are some of the ugly sides of trade shows (unfortunately this list is a bit hurtful to those who own and operate such shows)

  • Competition. You are compared viz-a-viz competitors within the same industry. Not a good place to be if you ask me. Everyone comparing with one another makes software applications appear  as a commodity with no differentiating features. You will also find that sometimes you will be pitching to your competition, when they come in covertly to see what you’ve got going on.  While this is annoying, it is certainly one of the problems of attending an industry tradeshow.
  • It’s expensive. Having a booth costs some coin. I don’t think I need to divulge into it much further than that.
  • Sales leads. Leads may be large from such an event, but closure rate can be very low. When I worked at Helius, we obtained over 150 leads from one industry tradeshow, but nothing came of a single one of them. I know, because I personally sifted through each and every one of them.
  • Low ROI. Unless your return is measured in “fluff and peanuts” I don’t see such an even having a very high return on investment.

There is still way too much hype, pomp and panache in this industry. Is exhibiting at an industry tradeshow right for you? That all depends on what your end goal is after coming away from the show. Do you want a quick return with some good customers in your pocket, or do you want to show to everyone, “hey we’re still here even though the economy is barely coming back and we haven’t had a real deal in months…” ? Just saying.


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