Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HITEC Hooligans

I could have been at a Yankees game, or a Lady Gaga concert, instead of at HITEC…. that’s how loud the roars and cheers were across the tradeshow hall in Orlando, FL the day that the US beat Algeria in World Cup Soccer. We had (very cleverly) decided to broadcast the game from the LCD Panels on our booth, so we had quite the crowd of attendees and exhibitors alike. For just a moment, the hustle of business stopped so we could all take in the moment of a victory. We all know that the US didn’t make it much further, but that moment will remain in my mind for a long time.

Tradeshows these days seem to be a bit like playing football (soccer for all those still not willing to adapt the term). You bring your best players, new uniforms and equipment, and every ounce of adrenaline one can muster. But when the stadium doors open, are the fans as enthusiastic as you?

We attend a few tradeshows each year. Some that we attend change year over year. I am always excited about each one. If you know me, you know that the word wallflower would be the very last adjective ever used to describe me. I love to socialize and network. You just cannot replace face to face interaction while doing the above. No matter how popular web-based conferencing becomes, the hospitality business is about people. When meeting face-to-face experiences are shared like the nuances in body language, the warmth of a hug from someone you haven’t seen in a year. It’s also easier to find out who has moved to what company since you last talked, or to check out what the competition is up to.

I worry about tradeshows though. How can they keep pace with the rapidly changing world of technology? How can they continue to keep attendees attending and exhibitors exhibiting? What is that magic formula? Does anyone truly know? The hosted-buyer format of tradeshows has gained momentum in the last couple of years. The intimacy of the format and the guarantee of meetings definitely have appeal. So what can the traditional booth driven tradeshows do to keep pace?

It’s not so much what the tradeshows can do for us; it’s what we can do for ourselves. We are the ones putting ourselves and our companies out there. Being prepared is key. You have to know who is attending, what products and services your customers have, and what business solutions they might be looking for. Be diligent in your follow up. Don’t let the people who took the time to come and visit you become a name in a database. Essentially, act like you are at the World Cup and this chance may not come around again for 4 years! Be your own biggest fan.

Lydia Montgomery
Sales & Strategic Alliance Manager