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Opportunities and challenges for future trade fair planning

Thursday, 28. November 2019 | by: Björn Schaper | Exhibition Planning

From Excel lists to digital exhibition planning tools

Trade shows are becoming more digital, and along with that planning processes, agreements, and handoffs have to change: Things are shifting from Excel lists and floods of e-mails to digital trade show planning platforms. But what does that look like? And what challenge will trade show planners face in the coming years? 

What are the problems and risks of traditional trade show planning? 

First of all, one thing must be made very clear: For many companies when it comes to trade show planning, non-digital procedures and processes work surprisingly well. There are always people who are very passionate about trade shows and who create clear procedures that work very well. Most of the time it becomes problematic when people are absent or sick, or there are changes to the staff. When these things happen, either there are more frequent delays and mistakes, or the employees who are primarily responsible have to connect to the system and save the day while they are either sick in bed or on vacation. Of course that is not practical and therefore not a suitable long-term approach for a well-run trade show planning department. Right now in marketing teams (which are responsible for trade show planning at most companies), demands on employees are increasing continually as it is, which is why well-orchestrated handoffs and well-deserved vacations are necessary. 

A digital trade show planning platform supports the people who are responsible for trade shows. It helps them keep an eye on everything and allows them quicker access to bundled information. Certificates, up-to-date plans, photos of previous trade shows, or just information about the general inventory and what is currently available are all live and retrievable with just a few clicks, which means an enormously reduced workload. 

What new challenges do the trade shows of the future pose for the employees? 

From my perspective, there are three challenges for these employees:

First, this trend is rapidly taking hold at smaller conferences, summits, and one-day events. That means that the relative number of trade show appearances is rising significantly, and with it the number of employees involved in trade show planning. This complicates the communication and coordination of all the trade show appearances and requires new structures and workflows. There are many customers who still, at least partially, coordinate well over 100 trade shows for their company with folders full of paper, Excel lists, and e-mails. In light of the technological developments that are happening now, this will no longer be presentable in the forseeable future. 

Second, more and more technical components are coming into play. Screens, tablets , apps, and digital lead management have been at trade show stands for a while now. Because these tools are used within the direct context of trade shows, they are often handled by a company's trade show contact person. And with them come large quantities of data, logins, and special access permissions that make a central administrative location all the more important. Because if, during a trade show the screens and tablets stay black with a "No Signal" indication, things can get out of hand very quickly at the trade show stand. 

Third, we are observing more often these days that marketing team employees are responsible for trade shows along with other marketing tasks. That means that there are fewer and fewer pure marketing departments, and therefore it is becoming more and more important to support the people responsible and lessen their workload through the use of digital planning tools. Only then will these employees have a chance to concentrate on the essential marketing tasks and not lose themselves in the general everyday tasks of trade show planning. That is an important factor in employee satisfaction and efficiency. 

What do trade show constructors and organizers have to prepare for? 

Here as well, one of the essential challenges is the use of digital tools. This applies not only to the employees who plan these trade shows, but also to the on-site trade show constructors and the organizers. It must be guaranteed that tablets, monitors, VR enhancements, etc., run stably and securely. Because the trend is catching on at so many different one-day events ( summits, Career Days, conferences, after-work events, meetups, etc.) at the same time, there is actually barely any budget for the on-site technical support. The systems have to be increasingly more flexible, simpler, and faster to put up and take down. Naturally, the same requirements are being placed on the optimal company presentation, despite how difficult they are to meet. The greatest challenge is still to stand out from the other exhibitors. That is why addressing a specific target group is a very important part of a successful trade show appearance. 

How can a digital planning platform help overcome these challenges? 

Digital tools make it possible to manage all of the trade show related material including furniture, video files, and all the information bundled in one place. Duplicate entries and shortages are not possible because availabilities are updated in real time. Additionally, digital trade show planning helps to simplify and make more transparent communication between companies, service providers, and assembly teams. Quick responses and direct feedback regarding construction, as well as live pictures of the trade show, also help to increase company-wide support of trade show events


Article from LA CONCEPT

Organisation team Exhibition marketing New Work Exhibition planning Digitalization Projectmanagement
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About Björn Schaper

Björn Schaper is Founder and CEO at LA CONCEPT. Manufacturing modular LED stands and a software for digital exhibiton planning, LA CONCEPT supports companies preparing for future trade fair concepts.

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