Agenda: Exhibitor or Visitor?

It’s an age-old quandary: Without high quality exhibitors, visitors won’t come, but without the right visitors, exhibitors won’t part with their hard-earned cash. But, who takes priority? 

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Mike Anderson, managing director, Hale Events

Mike Anderson, managing director, Hale Events

It’s a tough call to make, but for us, the most important person at any of the trade shows we organise is the visitor.

 

It can be easy to focus too much on the exhibitor, as they are the ones who pay for stands and directly contribute to our bottom line. As organisers, we also have more direct contact with our exhibitors.

 

We meet them at other trade shows and contact them throughout the year to encourage them to participate. They are incredibly important, bringing ideas, new products, creativity and content to our shows. They, along with additional features, create the show. However, if they do not meet quality buyers in sufficient numbers, then they won’t be back the following year!

 

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. No exhibitors means no show for buyers to visit. No visitors means no reason for exhibitors to book a stand.

 

It’s a very mutually dependent situation, and the challenge is maintaining the balance between the two.

 

However, the visitor must come first in all our thinking, because they are the people who generate revenue for our exhibitors and bring them back again year after year.

 

Our job as organisers is to create a show that visitors can justify spending time away from their own businesses to attend. It is critical that we understand what they want and need, engage with them and put on shows that meet their expectations.

 

With the increasing quality of internet information, it is critical that a trade show offers them something different, something tangible and an experience that adds to their thinking, and increases their opportunities. That’s how we will keep them coming back.

Anna Baptiste, event director, Upper Street Events

Anna Baptiste, event director, Upper Street Events

It’s chicken and egg. Both are equally important and one can’t survive without the other. A successful event is like a great date – an opportunity for two well – matched parties to engage with each other in an exciting and conducive environment. With a great atmosphere and chemistry as the X-factor, both parties will be keen to repeat the experience.

 

Visitors to The Knitting & Stitching Shows are textile fans of every type, whereas exhibitors range from niche specialist suppliers to global machine manufacturers.

 

Our goal is to facilitate the best date both parties have ever been on, because then they will want to do it again.

 

Evolving that first date between exhibitors and visitors into a meaningful, long-term relationship means keeping the chemistry alive. Speaking, and more importantly listening, to the views of current and prospective exhibitors, sponsors and media partners, textile associations, guilds and educators is vital for testing new content and concepts. Meanwhile, thousands of visitors respond candidly to our regular surveys about customer experience and trends.

 

We take feedback seriously and take action to edit aspects of our events that may not be working for exhibitors or visitors.

 

You know you’ve got the balance right when exhibitors, visitors and all those involved in an event become a community
– a family if you like - that actively seeks each other out, travels to be together, and enjoys and benefits from each other’s company.

 

In the case of The Knitting & Stitching Shows, that family is colourful, creative and passionate about textile art and craft.

Rob Nathan, marketing director, Media 10

Rob Nathan, marketing director, Media 10

The ‘which comes first’ question is always going to exist and there will always be arguments on both sides; however, I am firmly of the opinion that you can have the best looking event in the world, full of double-decker exhibition stands, a multitude of features and A-list celebrities sipping champagne in the aisles, but if no visitor is there to see it, you are up a particularly unpleasant creek.

 

No exhibition has ever failed because of too many visitors or too many exhibitors, but the most common reason for events to fold is because footfall is not there, which in turn wrecks the hopes of the sales team and the budget sheet.

 

Sales teams sell on quantity as well as quality. Exhibitors judge the buzz in the halls and it is up to the organiser to make sure the event has the right type of visitor that matches its exhibitor base. We’ve all heard horror stories of exhibitors ganging together to demand answers as to why the promised 30,000 attendees never materialised, but it’s incredibly rare for an exhibition to fail because the visitors were disappointed with the exhibitors.

 

You have to have the balance right, but it all starts with strong visitor numbers. Then you create a community, a pilgrimage to a particular event; only then you have the ammunition to create VIP packages, awards evenings and attract coach parties. It’s a simple business, really.

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