The trade show unfortunate misunderstanding

Skift Take


Last week the blog was fairly inactive as I went to London to attend the 2008 International Confex.

For those out there who don’t know what I am talking about, Confex is one of the biggest trade shows for event planners, mangers and everyone involved into the industry.

This is the trade show of the trade shows. When you host people who actually work with events, expectations are extremely high and I think Confex did great.

It was a great organizational success. If you go through the numbers, you’ll notice that more than 15,000 people attended. Furthermore you would have noticed how the organizational machine worked perfectly. My congratulations to those who managed to create such a perfect event.

Nonetheless, during the whole visit I had this persisting idea: do we need trade shows at all?

I noticed by walking around the stands and meeting exhibitors that there was a positive vibe and unprecedented eagerness to network and find new business opportunities.

I also sneaked through seminars and presentations and most of them recorded substantial figures of attendance.

After that, I was amazed to notice how a large number of attendees sat at the bars and restaurants tables actually discussing and debating. Talking about projects, ideas, business insights.

My thought at that point was, what if all of the money spent for the event by both organizers and exhibitors was designated to run an Open event.

So I started to dream of how I would have given huge space to allow people to interact, produce and network.

I also fantasized about seating in comfortable meeting rooms instead of walking through aisles and trying to work out a map.

After that I imagined the satisfaction of attendees who actually could have evaluated instead of flashy lights, good looking supermodels, free champagne and oysters. Not that I don’t like all of the above, but what does it have to do with the way I do business and trade.

On the other hand, I also figured how sponsors would have been more interested in saving money and being allowed to pitch instead of grabbing people as they walked by.

A question then popped up… How do you do that with 15,000 people over 3 days…. I don’t know but put 20 event people together and make them find a way around. You’ll probably have a new concept in 2 hours.

And then another question…. What could 15,000 people together create… Picture if they had gathered to actually produce a document, a project, a roadmap, a publication about the industry. Think about the results!!

I must say that after 45 minutes walking around the aisles and a bag full of promotional materials I went back to my hotel and had a chamomile tea.

My final thought of the day was that Confex was a great trade show, but the only relaxing feeling I had was the dream of 15,000 people together, collaborating for a purpose.