In Tuesday's New York Times, there was a story called "Surviving the Slog of Trade Shows" by Susan Stellin. I thought I'd write about it since I've seen a lot of discussions about trade shows as experiential marketing over on www.experientialforum.com. If in fact trade shows are a method of experiential marketing, they seem to have become a pretty poor method. Ms. Stellin points out the " ... stale air and fluorescent glare, ... ghastly food, the long lines ... throbbing feet from walking the show floor, exhausting marathons of schmoozing and wheeling-and-dealing, the tedium of listening to long-winded lectures in windowless rooms ..." The list could go on, and the article does go on to offer tips for surviving trade shows. If you need tips for surviving something, chances are that something needs help, and a lot of it.
Any time you can come face-to-face with current and potential customers, you have a great opportunity to impact them positively and perhaps even develop a bond. But I'm not sure trade shows are still the place to do that, as it seems more and more people are finding ways to avoid them. I'd be interested to know what the exhibition industry is doing to reinvent itself. I also wonder if companies wouldn't be better served by creating an event where they are the sole host, and can completely control the experience had by their guests. Given the ungodly amounts of money companies often spend on trade shows, they could probably afford to host something in their own backyard, keep it short and sweet, foot the bill for the travel of the attendees, and come up with a compelling alternative to long-winded lectures.