The End of Trade Shows?

I’m gonna’ make a detour from the technology end of finishing and talk about the potential end of trade shows for the graphic arts. At least five years ago, I had a discussion with a well-known printing industry consultant (and friend) Bill Lamparter. He made a very persuasive argument that the trade show (as we knew it) was doomed. “Look,” he said, “it’s probably cheaper and more effective for large vendors to set-up an open house and fly their prospects and clients in for the event.

“And when they get them there, it’s a captive audience. They don’t have to worry about them wandering off to a competitors’ booth.” Turns out, he was right.

The ever-growing defections from the trade show scene (HP, Heidelberg, Kodak among others) highlight this trend. This year’s Ipex in the United Kingdom featured a laundry list of no shows that resulted in an overall reduced exhibit area. What are the reasons for this? Here’s my list:

Run Your Own (Branded) Show: Trade shows are expensive, and vendors have been successful at organizing focused user-group events. Witness the success of Dscoop. HP, Ricoh, MBO, Hunkeler (Innovation Days) all run multi-day highly organized focused events targeted towards specific users and groups. They get to set the agenda, set the attendee’s, and control their expenses.

Knowing Where the Bodies are Buried: Let’s face it, shrinkage of the many parts of the industry has actually made it easier to single out your prospects. There are so many databases and so much information out there, it’s not difficult to single out likely prospects for your technology. Trade shows were built on the premise that there were many unknown prospects out there who would travel to major exhibitions and show up at your stand, ready to be sold. That’s not the case today.

Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.
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  • Werner R

    Thanks Don. Lester Reiss, VP of Heidelberg already made that prediction in the early 1980’s. It simply got too expensive he said! Others, like Ralph Box of Muller Martini disagreed. Times have changed. Those open houses and training centers are the way to connect. The internet aids in the research. Nevertheless, if the company takes care of the expenses, employees love to go to these shows and wine and dine with suppliers. The Graphics oaf America just closed its doors and reported an increase of 23% of the floor space over 2013 and a 14% of attendance. Great job George Ryan!