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Internet World – it’s time for trade shows to innovate

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 27th April 2010

I popped into Internet World this morning to catch up with a couple of Wildfire clients. My very unscientific observations suggested that the show was back to its heaving best after what was a very recession-hit turnout from exhibitors and attendees alike last year.

In this digital age, it would be easy to think that there is no longer a place for trade shows – they are expensive (both financially and in terms of people-hours) and time-consuming for all involved. But actually the face-to-face interaction that goes on at shows like Internet World is fantastic and, for many digital and online businesses, absolutely invaluable.

Having said that, I do sometimes feel that exhibitors could do more to really make their presence stand out. This could be as simple as running one of the educational seminars that always seem to attract lots of visitors, or by offering something of value on the stand – e.g. an exclusive whitepaper or case study.

Too often, exhibitors seem to resort to softer, brand awareness techniques that don’t really cut above the noise, rather than really demonstrating expertise and offering value.

And it is important not to forget to link activities at trade shows with your digital or social media activities either. Do you have a Twitter account? Why not get visitors to your stand to give their Twitter IDs or if you really want to do something a bit different, why not try experimenting with Foursquare (a location based social network)? I checked-in a few times with Foursquare and was surprised not to have received any tips or hints from exhibitors or visitors.

From a PR standpoint, few journalists now have the time to spend hours and hours speaking to vendors at trade shows and, if they do attend, often prefer just to wander around. But shows are still a good opportunity for PRs to get a feel for what is happening in the industry, meet up with clients, spokespeople and their partners.

Rackspace did run a cute little marketing stunt – they had a group of actors/students outside holding placards demanding the abolition of servers. It was certainly getting quite a bit of attention (and therefore brand awarenss) for those on their way into Earls Court 2!

So, it’s good to see that shows like Internet World are beginning to thrive again after the recession, so now is the opportunity for brands to start thinking outside the box and developing some new, innovative ways to really capture the attention of visitors.

picture credit

Danny Whatmough