Exhibitions used to be big business and for some companies they were the mainstay of their annual marketing activity. But in the last decade, some of the biggest vertical shows seem to have crumbled and either downsized significantly, regionalised or disappeared altogether. Attendance numbers are down and the cost of exhibiting (stand, set up, materials, accommodation and the obligatory bar bill) is deemed by many to be excessive.
So why am I writing a blog post advocating going to exhibitions? Because I am looking at it from the other side of the coin, as a visitor.
I recently attended the Academies show in London #AcademiesLDN17 – a regional event for those in the education sector. I walked the exhibition, sat in on the seminars and networked and whilst doing so I realised how important the event was for the attendees. Important not for the information on offer, the latest gadgets and technology nor the truck loads of canvas bags full of cheap ‘clicky’ pens and stress balls, but for the opportunity to take some legitimate time away from the office (classroom in this case) with a colleague and talk strategy.
As I sat in seminars, having a coffee and chatting to people over lunch, it was clear that the opportunity for the senior leaders to have a day away was hugely valuable. Yes, they could chalk it up as CPD, yes, they could look at all the great stuff available to aide learning and yes, they could hear from the top people in the sector, but the real value was on the train, over coffee and just through general wandering with no predefined schedule or agenda. I heard dozens of strategic discussions taking place and would surmise that a lot of changes will be seen in schools across the land as a direct result of that exhibition.
Now I appreciate that does nothing for the people that have paid thousands to exhibit, but they should take some heart in the fact that their presence has made the show possible and indirectly created the opportunity for planning, investment and decision making to take place on a grand scale.
So if you are a senior leader, C suite exec or one-man-band, I recommend taking the time out and go to an event or exhibition sometime soon. Take someone with you and use the time to bounce ideas and just discuss your business in a business environment but without the pressure.