Eight Steps to Changing the Trade Show Industry

trade show industry

Why Hasn't the Trade Show Industry Changed In 50 Years?

Trade shows are a unique meeting format. Unlike other gatherings, a trade show is a very specific form factor—one that that has endured (i.e. hasn’t changed much) for at least fifty years. So, if there is any industry ripe for a large-scale overhaul, it’s this one. Here’s how you could help pull it off.

trade show industry


How to create trade show industry change

Gain consensus. Trade show organizers must first agree that change is necessary to improve and optimize their shows. They should be willing to closely examine every element of the trade show construct: floor layouts, labor unions, convention centers, exhibitor processes, general contractors, in-house suppliers, threats and opportunities etc. If there are ways to change, refine, or streamline operations and relationships, they should be considered.

Define change. Mandates to change, innovate, transform, or even tweak an industry can be daunting to consider. It is much easier to identify very specific problems, back up the existence of those problems with data (to avoid the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” syndrome), and agree on the specific metrics that would indicate success or failure.

Appoint a leader. Someone or some entity will be required to lead the charge. One way to go about it would be to appoint an independent company or person to manage the process, organize the analysis, gather data, delegate work, and chart the progress of change in the industry.

Develop a roadmap. Saying that change is necessary, and identifying the metrics that indicate whether change has occurred is only part of the process. Someone has to develop a plan to get from where we are to where we want to be as an industry. This should include what technical, leadership and process changes could contribute to a better model.

Obtain funding. Financing change is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of working toward it. While volunteer task forces can do some of the legwork, funding will ultimately be required for some parts of the process. Committing funds to a project is also a way to demonstrate that the project is meaningful and important.

Provide education. Not everyone that will be impacted by the proposed changes will automatically understand how to deal with them. Stakeholders will require education on new ways to work, new business opportunities, and new tools that come about as the result of the change process.

Work transparently. Never underestimate the creativity of the crowd. While there may be a dedicated person or group of individuals selected to spearhead change initiatives, it’s always a good idea to allow people to follow along, weigh in with suggestions, or simply ask questions. An online forum or community is one way to provide the needed transparency and support.

Review continuously. Change never happens overnight, if it even happens at all. It’s always a bit of an experiment. A necessary step toward effecting change is to constantly review outcomes against metrics. Negative outcomes are as valuable as positive outcomes. In other words, the change manager, whoever that is, must constantly look at the data, chart the progress, report it to the industry, rinse and repeat.

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