Talking trade shows

Just when the budgets and marketing plans are all approved and put to bed and the New Year passes, the trade-show season begins. There are more than 1,000 trade shows worldwide that focus on hospitality, travel and tourism. Trade shows representing billions of dollars (euros, yen, yuan, etc.), bring visions of triumphant sales professionals returning home dripping in signed contracts.

Usually the domain of the director of sales and marketing, general managers have allocated the monies, weighed in on the free tchotchkes and perused the final travel budgets. If you are part of a large hotel corporation or franchise, often your involvement in a trade show involves little more than a line-item expense on your marketing line or franchise bill.

However, for the independent properties or more hands-on general managers, those miles and miles of pseudo-carpet, beaming smiles and outreached hands can be a place to sharpen your skills, assess your competitors and work with your sales professionals. After attending a trade show in 1994, I realized that our visual presentation of brochures and pictures in binders was severely outdated. In preparation for ITB the following year, we decided to do a virtual tour of the property and present it on a laptop. What seems passé now in the mid-1990s was cutting-edge. We were a big hit in Berlin that year. Our presentation drew crowds of clients as well as co-exhibitors. I unashamedly admit that a number of years ago when a leading hotel company came out with its hotel video on USB drives as a giveaway, we quickly hopped on that bandwagon. Today that same bandwagon is crowded with companies doing the very same. Interested in our newest idea? You’ll have to attend Pow Wow in Las Vegas to find out.

Consider attending at least one of the trade shows you are participating in this year. If you are now planning for your first trade show, I have found this information very helpful as a planning guide. 

Trade shows are not for the faint of heart (or feet). They involve long hours, late networking and tiresome travel — all of which has led to my finally understanding the DOSM mini bar expenses. I have learned a great deal from attending a variety of different types of trades hows over the decades — information that I would not have gained from a sales report, photos or a team member’s observations. We spend hours to review how we are presented on websites, brochures and sales kits. The trade show world is an ever-changing environment, worthy of constant assessment and revitalization.

Ever interested in the art of sales and marketing, I would love to hear your best trade show story or tip — at least the ones you can share in polite company!