Later this month in Chicago, Galen Poss, Gary Shapiro and Greg Topalian will discuss the evolution of the existing trade show model, as well as the tools, technologies and methods for facilitating commerce that will (hopefully) keep face-to-face, experiential media the preferred choice of CMOs. I managed to convince all three of these visionaries to give Inner Circle readers a “sneak peek” at their upcoming CEIR Predict session…
What doesn’t need to evolve or change with the existing trade show model?
Shapiro: The power of face-to-face interaction and five-sense experience of any life event is what fuels us as humans. The ability to shake hands, make eye contact and form a first impression provides the foundation for business relationships. From the unexpected discovery of a new product to networking with a future business partner, personal interaction drives successful shows now and will continue to do so into the future.
Topalian: True, but trade shows have to be more alert to the opportunities that revolve around the consumer. B2B and B2C are coming together more significantly than ever before, and the value proposition for shows that recognize this will be far stronger. B2B trade shows are not dying by any means, but organizers and developers should embrace consumers’ ability to buy/influence. The movie and entertainment industry figured it out—they are able to create their own energy, and a (relatively) small number of people can influence millions.
How must the existing trade show model evolve to remain relevant to millennials?
Poss: The trade show model needs to evolve now to meet the needs of all of our customers. Throughout my 35+ year career, we’ve been serving up the same product with minor variations in terms of service and style, always forcing our customers to conform to our model, as opposed to responding to the specific needs of our audience and customers. So, there is no one answer—rather, the necessary evolution will depend on the market, geography, products and audience. As this applies to millennials, I believe we just have a shorter window in which to respond.
Provide an example of an innovative use of technology that is facilitating further evolution of the trade show model.
Shapiro: Beacon technology is changing the way attendees and exhibitors interact and how they navigate a show more efficiently. Beacons are a type of transmitter that, when paired with a smartphone app, pinpoints where a user is standing. At CES 2014, we launched a beacon scavenger hunt to encourage attendees to visit high-priority areas of the show. In 2015, we mapped out the entire show floor to provide beacon-based navigation. Beacons provide an opportunity to send push notifications to those standing in close proximity to the transmitter.
Which indirect competitive model poses the biggest threat to the traditional trade show model?
Topalian: I guess it’s the fact that the middleman is getting squeezed. And yes, the traditional trade show, as a conduit between buyers and sellers, fits that “middleman” description. Look outside the event space for examples of this happening. Zillow is a good example of matchmaking for home buying, eliminating the agent. I’d say this trend is only a threat if ignored. The more consumer-facing you can be, the better your opportunity. It is certainly easier to address from scratch, but regardless, it needs to be addressed. We are only at the beginning of this trend, and trade shows will have to reflect this change.
Poss: Organizations that control massive databases with deep and relevant information on our current and future customers, like LinkedIn, Salesforce, their unnamed cousins and their future replacements. Also, content providers who use deep and extremely rich targeted content to lure our traditional customers to buyer-hosted events and vertically focused user groups. It is unlikely that anyone can predict exactly what the future of face-to-face will look like, but I am pretty confident it will be very different from the industry of the past. Toto… we are not in Kansas anymore!
To hear more from these thought leaders—and others—join mdg (and hundreds of our industry friends!) in Chicago at CEIR Predict on September 16 and 17.