The decision of where to stage a trade show or convention is not one an organiser takes lightly. Choose wisely and they may create a successful event that grows in size and stature year-on-year, bringing thousands of professionals and millions of dollars of investment to a city, cementing it as a hub for the industries it attracts. Choose poorly and they may have to fold, or start the process over elsewhere.
So it follows that organisers invest a lot of time and money when it comes to selecting a destination. Some employ the talents of a third party to conduct this research, others go through the rigmarole of setting up an exploratory team in a temporary office to do the due diligence in-house.
But in either of these cases, the prospect of completing this task for each shortlisted destination is financially prohibitive and impractical. Which begs the question: what if these destinations were to provide in-depth reports using verifiable government data on trends, growth and market opportunity?
Such information, provided to organisers unsolicited or on request would negate the need for this costly practice, and in doing so entice those that may be considering – or not considering – their city or venue as a potential destination for their events.
Sound logical? Then you may be surprised to hear it is rarely the case.
Create an industrial case for your city
Executive VP of leading organiser UBM Asia, Michael Duck, claims destinations fall short of the mark when it comes to presenting his company with the local market intelligence it requires to consider launching or acquiring a show.
“Presently no destination presents specific information. Usually we employ a third-party research team to delve into the national or regional market to indicate possibilities and competition” he says. “Those such as Hong Kong, which has good information, are few and far between.”
Good information is key. DMG Events’ Tony Crinion points out that the information an exhibition organiser requires must not be limited to hotels, or pre- and post-event entertainment options.
“As many of the new launches are in emerging countries, market intelligence has to be supported by investigating economic forecasts for the sector, political stability and activity from international government trade promotional councils in the chosen country,” he says.
“The question we have to ask ourselves as a business is: ‘What do our customers really want?’. Their needs and wants change constantly. We try to spend as much time as possible talking to the market (exhibitors, visitors, industry associations, government funding bodies) to better understand their needs and what markets are of interest to them.”
But for any conversation to begin, the industrial and commercial opportunity in that city must first be realised. The needs of their customer can only be met by a city that fits the correct profile.
At present, such vital city or region profiles specifically aimed at exhibition organisers do not exist. Instead each organiser has to conduct their own time-consuming and expensive market research on a city before even considering that city as a possible destination for their event. With many markets and destinations to consider, this becomes a real barrier to entry.
To be truly effective, bureaus/agents responsible for attracting exhibitions and conventions must target the relevant organisers specifically, and not market themselves more generally to ‘business tourists’.
Let’s not forget that the exhibition industry is a relatively small one. Once created, it is possible to identify the organisers with event portfolios compatible with the profile of your city, and put these reports directly in their hands. Profiling need not work in only one direction.
Ultimately, these reports would accelerate the process of dealing with an organiser to the point of negotiation. Once a match has been made, a deal can be struck.
So why don’t they exist? Perhaps it is because of bureaus’ continued reliance on advertising to draw attention to their destination. But organisers are too discerning to be swayed by glossy branding alone. Editorial coverage in trade magazines is another route to communicate the message, but with continued print revenue decline and explorative and uncertain digital revenue models, the resources simply aren’t there to provide this coverage to the degree of specificity required by organisers.
Duck says the problem may lie in the fact destinations don’t understand the real value exhibitions bring to city.
“Conferences and conventions bring people in, fill hotels and make retailers happy,” he explains.
“However these are usually one-in-20-year events in each location, where as exhibitions typically take place every year. And as they grow, the number of exhibitors, personnel and international visitors grow. Exhibitions provide greater value.”
Adopting a more sophisticated approach and giving the organiser what they need could ensure this growth occurs in your city.