The Covid-19 pandemic will change the way the world does business. Restaurants, shopping malls, mass transportation and sporting events, to name just a few, will soon differ from what we remember. Some will cease operating entirely. Let us hope that industry trade shows are one such casualty.
Even before the virus struck, industry trade shows were a costly anachronism, keeping “old boys” everywhere connected to their expense accounts and, occasionally, to their customers. Each year’s keynote speakers sounded very much like those at previous conventions. The product/service awards were as numerous as they were meaningless, designed to keep exhibitors happy they spent so much on pre-show advertising, not to mention on a 10 foot by 10 foot floor space.
And let’s not forget the fees.
Few will look back fondly on those $200/day charges to vacuum a tiny patch of carpet. No tears will be shed for the electrical connection charges, the booth setup and breakdown charges, the signage police, and the many other costly indignities of the average show. Often, the color-coded Exhibitors Badge seemed to have less to do with providing pre-show access for booth setup, and more to do with identifying who will pay the highest price for a minor service.
So, sales and marketing decision makers, forget those winter escapes to Orlando or Las Vegas. Fewer customers will be traveling by air in 2021, still fewer will be shaking hands and exchanging business cards at your expensive company booth. Consider also that your sales pitch may not be as effective when spoken through an N95 or similar mask. Times have changed.
I don’t mean to sound heartless. Should industry trade shows go the way of the dinosaur, overdue as that extinction may be, there will be unintended victims. I am referring, of course, to the “free samplers,” those individuals who cruise the shows filling branded plastic bags with brochures, keychains, stickers and any other memorabilia they can grab. These omnipresent scavengers, their show badges reversed so the actual badge owners’ names are hidden, far outnumber potential customers. Large packs of them have been known to surround booths, snagging display product not intended for sampling. (I once witnessed a seemingly detached arm reach out from a crowd and clear out a rack of not-for-consumption, three day old fried food samples.) They are shameless.
Before you condemn me my viewpoint, ask yourself this? When was the last time you exhibited at a trade show and the new sales that show generated more-than-covered the expenses you paid?
I thought so.
Mr. Dragone has spent the past fifteen years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of start-ups in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He was a co-founder of Keurig, Inc.
Previously, Mr. Dragone was a senior financial/operational manager for Chiquita Brands International. He moved to Chiquita after working in international banking at BankBoston.
He has an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MA (in Spanish) from Middlebury College and a BA from Colby College.