Exhibition to be or not to be?

By Michael Aldridge, General Manager of Merlin Events London

@MerlinEvents on Twitter  

Having been in the events industry since about 1992, I can recall in 2002 I was exhibiting at Crème a secretary show, Confex, RSVP, World Travel Market and EIBTM along with a few sales missions to the U.S.This was a time when I stopped printing costly, big, glossy brochures that went out of date the week after print. Merlin Events changed to a magazine format that ran for 5 years; some of you may remember it ‘Eventspiration’.The internet was getting faster and we had just uploaded a new website which was becoming, along with word of mouth, our key source of business.

2011 saw the explosion of social media, with Facebook and Twitter generating over 4,000 followers and LinkedIn gaining in excess of 3,000 connections, all of which are industry contacts. I can talk to the entire global event network in five minutes! The world global market is truly a local market.

At Merlin Events we still create ‘experiential experiences’, hosting one event at each venue annually that highlights a theme and showcases the best of Merlin and our suppliers. The only difference is these events have become more technical and require an even bigger talking point. What I am trying to say is the industry is younger, more dynamic and has moved on.

Now back to my question; the only part of the industry that does not seem to have evolved much are exhibitions.I’m confused to the need; do clients really have the time to wander around a hall looking at shell schemes and the same suppliers and venues year in year out?From an exhibitor perceptive you want your stand to be an extension of your brand.I’m not sure a 2 x 1 shell stand with a pop up offering a boiled sweet and a raffle with a weekend for two in Derby is a brand extension that is positive.The last time I exhibited (about 4 years ago) my stand had a bar, screens, wax figures, paparazzi photographers and cost over £10k. These days I turn to Google for research or to buy anything and it is far easier on my feet! Yes exhibitions are a way to meet with both peers and clients I hear you cry. Really? Do you have to go to an exhibition hall to meet up with clients?

Do venues/ suppliers measure the real ROI of exhibitions?

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