Event Exhibitions. Are they worth it?

event exhibition

As an Event Manager, I am always looking for the next new trend, the best new hotels and suppliers that push my imagination and event capabilities. It is these suppliers that help grow Clearwater Events and help us to continually deliver unique, innovative and exciting events for our clients.

Traditionally, the event exhibition was the place to find just this. An entire hall full of new suppliers with great ideas, combined with larger hotel chains that we all knew and respected. Now with the internet, things are so much easier and with a simple tap of keys and a click, a whole world of inspiration awaits. So, is there a need for event exhibitions?

I would like to look at this with my two heads, firstly as a buyer of supplier services but also as a seller of event and destination management services.

I can attend one of many exhibitions both in the UK and overseas, and no matter how far I travel, I see the same familiar faces. The same suppliers, the same delegates and the same appalling behaviours of hosted buyers… It gets frustrating seeing the same hotel chains, most of them very well known. It’s tiring to see the same ‘industry colleagues’ swanning around, quaffing the free fizz whilst reminding everyone how important and busy they are (a funny thing as it always amazes me how those who claim to be the busiest can always be found at a free lunch, trip or exhibition).

I believe this conundrum is largely down to cost. The cost of exhibiting at these shows is incredibly high. So, it’s only ever going to be the major hotel chains and DMC’s exhibiting, and they exhibit at them all. Why not? They have the money. Sadly, with the costs involved in exhibiting, smaller independent suppliers – often innovative, creative and whom could add real value to events – are pushed out. Frustratingly, it is these suppliers that could benefit most from exhibiting.

With the costs involved, exhibitors want to ensure they are maximising ROI, often hosting buyer programmes. But, many of the programmes have the ‘old faithfuls’ – the buyers that go to the opening of the envelope and promise the world to those that host them. Some, of course, do deliver, but many do not. But, they play on the exhibitors’ hope of a strong ROI.

For me, I would love to go a show and see new faces. I am not interested in networking with fellow event agencies, however lovely you may be! I am interested in networking with fresh and exciting suppliers while possibly identifying new clients that might like to use Clearwater Events.

How refreshing would it be to go to a show and see independent suppliers? Marquee companies, lighting solutions, smaller DMC’s, transportation and anything in between. How inspirational would it be to come away from a show with a bag full of business cards from independent suppliers offering solutions that could really grow the business? Rather than a head ache, sore feet and a vow that you will never put yourself through it again…

I think it’s time that exhibitions change direction. Instead of being driven simply by profit and numbers, why not look at creating marketplaces for smaller independent suppliers. Why not offer an affordable exhibiter package that allows ‘the next best thing’ to be showcased? Offering a varied mix of new and existing suppliers could create a fantastic portfolio of dynamic suppliers that people really want to see!

It could open the doors to a new portfolio of hosted buyers and visitors that actually want to learn, develop ideas and do business, rather than those that are going for a trip out of the office and a glass of cheap fizz.

Let’s see what the future holds with our industry exhibitions, perhaps things will change…