Every year, someone always asks what my one top technology trend to watch will be.
It usually takes me a moment because as you can imagine, every year there are a gazillion more things to choose from. So after a gulp of water, and 500 eyes and ears waiting to see what glimmer of hope I may bring for their prosperous new year, my answer?
Ok, so I'm not talking about going all robotic with machines manning your booth or replacing your marketing team with full artifical intelligence to do everything better. But...I am suggesting use of those tools, but with "better" people. To clarify, by better I mean more well-equipped to use those tools.
Firstly, we'll look at exhibitors.
Exhibitors are focusing on ROI more than ever. We hear more about how they want to make sure their stand is working more efficiently for them. They want to make sure they're capturing the best conversations on the show floor. They want to make sure they have the edge on their competition. So on a crowded show floor (or even a fairly sparsely populated one), how do you get that edge over the stand next to you?
It all comes down to people. And an attractive stand, of course (and pre-show marketing, hospitality, lead capture...the list does go on). But the pre-show campaign and the stand design will bring the attendee over, but it's up to the booth personnel to reel them in.
So the people trend for exhibitors is better-trained and engaging booth staff. Whether hired from an outside staffing firm or brought up from the ranks within, you’ll need staff who want to engage with passers-by and actually sell them something. Staff who understand your clients’ business well enough to talk about it on the day. Staff who have passion that emanates from every word that comes out of their mouths. Staff who will ultimately help you have a better show.
On to the organisers.
While there are many variations of the people trend for show organisers, I'm going to look specifically at marketing and sales.
With all the latest tech in marketing now available, we are going to see more experts in respective fields employed to utilise those systems or optimise those experiences even further. For example, you may be an excellent marketing director who trained at a top university, but did they have the latest automation tools in the curriculum back then? Was AI even discussed "back then?" If the answer is no, then you probably need to enlist the help of an expert or send yourself to a couple of training courses. You need an expert on your team who knows how to deploy those technologies to help drive your value proposition.
The same goes for sales. There are few companies within our industry that regularly hire from outside the events or publishing sectors with relation to sales. The reason so often being, "they need to know events," which in part is true – but in reality, if sales teams are equipped with the right information about an event and what return it could give to meet your customers’ objectives, it's not that difficult. You need people who know how to sell. The product or service they’re selling can be learned.
Exhibition sales as we know it is changing. At last, and for the better.
So yes, people do need to know the events industry. But on a basic level it can be taught fairly quickly to an eager-to-learn candidate. More important is their ability to understand client objectives and how your event can deliver on those objectives.
We are going to see more solution-based sales, which will continue to drive bottom-line growth. For example, we should no longer be selling in square meterage real estate, but should be looking at ROI-based selling models, from the entirety of your show floor. How many leads are generated in different areas? Does sponsoring a stage have an effect on leads gained? What about speaking opportunities? Sure, sometimes you just know a show works and you know your clients get the orders, but there is increasing demand for measurability.
Exhibitors want proof of existence at your show. If your sales people continue to sell on space alone, and "5,000 attendees came through the door"...then they'll be changing, too.
Whatever you do, and however you do it, your face-to-face marketing experience will succeed or fail at the hands of the people who put it together, pull it off and interact with your client.
So this year, and always - bring it back to the people. They will make or break your event experience.
About the Author
Matt has been working in events & exhibitions for over 10 years. From organising, to design, to website, and onto registration and intelligent data services, Matt has extensive experience at every level. With a background in organisation, marketing and design Matt is able to cut through the technology and approach data and registration solutions with the end users in mind. As Technology Engagement Architect for GES and an active participant in the industry, Matt has been involved in a variety of industrywide research projects and is an expert in how to prove ROI and manage data effectively.Follow on Twitter More Content by Matt Coyne