If you are like many other associations, you may have noticed attendance and exhibitor participation in your trade shows decreasing over the past few years. One reason for this current trend is simply that people seem to be busier now than in years past with their professional and personal lives. An additional reason could be the emergence of so much social media over the past several years, leaving former participants less reliant on organized gatherings. So how does an association break through these barriers and get their members excited about attending events?
First, you must take everyone’s busy schedules into consideration when deciding on the details of your trade show. Five years ago, members may have looked at a three-day trade show as a mini vacation. Now however, people are lucky to be able to get away from the office or their families for a single day. Therefore, packing everything into a one-day extravaganza may increase attendance and decrease costs. Those members who have extremely busy schedules will be relieved that they only have to travel one day as opposed to three days which may in turn, increase your attendance. By decreasing the length of the show, you also decrease the costs by a significant amount by only having to pay facility rental for one day, speaker(s) fees and travel costs for one day, exhibitor costs for one day and food and beverage costs for one day.
Not only do your members have complicated schedules, but your exhibitors do as well. More times than not, your show is one of twenty that an exhibitor is participating in for that year. Therefore, by decreasing the needed commitment, you are allowing vendors to possibly add another trade show to their schedule or even spend more time with their families. Helping vendors keep their schedules flexible, you will likely keep them participating year after year.
An additional reason for decreased attendance and exhibitor participation appears to be the emergence of social media over the past several years. So many people can now get continuing education credits online or have questions answered by simply sending an email to other members. What once used to be a single source for networking opportunities, the trade show is no longer the priority for industry leaders since more and more networking opportunities exist online. Therefore, every Association needs to find creative ways to use social media to your advantage when planning a trade show. Some examples include:
- Post a variety of commonly asked questions on your Facebook page and tell your attendees that the answers will be given during the educational seminars.
- Email a video from the previous year’s trade show to potential attendees to get them excited about attending.
- Offer online access to all of the materials provided at the trade show to paid attendees only.
- Utilize available Apps to better the trade show experience for all attendees, such as Unsocial.
Adapting your trade show to fit the needs of the busy Professional and using social media to your advantage could be the difference between the first of many successful trade shows and your final one.