Post-COVID Trade Shows: The New Normal

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2021 Carolinas GCSA (Golf Course Superintendents Association

Post-COVID Trade Shows: The New Normal

This week I’m attending the 2021 Carolinas GCSA (Golf Course Superintendents Association) convention and trade show in Myrtle Beach, S.C. This is the first trade show that I’ve attended since COVID-19 reared its ugly head in March 2020. After going cold turkey with no trade shows, the past two years have created some interesting perspectives.

Perspective 1: Are trade shows worth the significant cost and staff time investment?
We all know from experience that virtual trade shows do not work, despite the technological bells and whistles that were supposed to remedy the challenges of not having personal interactions. Witness the technological melt down at the International Builders Show in February 2020 when the entire virtual show went down, never to come back. Many of our clients have gone two years without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on trade show exhibits, booth rental and travel. None have seen significant drops in sales.

Perspective 2: Increased focus on trade show ROI
Most of our clients are attempting to develop improved ROI and measurement models. Those who viewed trade show investments as a “necessary evil are no longer doing so. In our models, qualified lead numbers, conversion rate and time to conversion are key. Cost per converted lead provides a critical balance to the significant cost structures for trade show participation.

Perspective 3: How much booth space do you really need?
This has and will be the proverbial investment question. The virtual trade show providers were able to profit handsomely in the past two years because few exhibitors had knowledge, experience or negotiating position. We’ve heard numerous times from various clients that they’re cutting trade show budgets in the following ways:
• Smaller booth footprints
• Less booth infrastructure that is easier to install and takedown and cheaper to ship
• Fewer staff at the trade show
• Lower levels of sponsorship and advertising

Perspective 4: What should the role of trade shows?
I was reminded of the importance of business networking and education at the GCSA show. Both are things that GCSA provides in spades for its members. Attendees at the show were able to reconnect with their peers and share ideas. They were able to learn about industry trends and new products that will impact their future job performance. Great opportunities await exhibitors who focus their trade show efforts on facilitating industry networking and education.

Increasing focus and resources on the following areas should yield even bigger returns as the trade show circuit returns.
• Booking corporate staff as presenters for educational seminars or round table discussions
• Scheduling journalist/influencer meetings on the show floor
• Spotlighting new product developments with innovation awards, PR and social media

For more information, contact Mike Reiber.

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