We need fundamentally rethink trade fair websites and exhibitor directories

Our thoughts on why we need to fundamenttally rethink trade fair websites and exhibitor directories. Or how trade fairs could acutally deliver on their value proposition online.

The goal of a trade show is to bring the right people together. Thanks to digitization, we have many new tools at our disposal, so you would think that trade shows would achieve their goal more easily today. Paradoxically, the opposite seems to be the case. Even before Corona, exhibitors complained about fewer and fewer new leads, and visitors complained about fewer interesting innovations and people to talk to. Corona made it clear that trade shows cannot deliver on their value proposition - bringing the right people together - online. I believe this can and must change and that the key lies in new trade show websites and exhibitor directories.

Exhibitors stage their stories at trade fairs

What brings the right people together? Good stories. Exhibitors have been successfully staging their stories at trade shows for decades - stories of innovations, new products, successful application examples, interesting findings, etc. These exhibitor stories represent the core of every trade show and are the reason why visitors attend the show.


The missing link between visitors and exhibitors

In recent years, the information needs of visitors have changed. They are increasingly no longer prepared to simply come to the trade fair because it is the largest and most important and spend hours looking for interesting things. Statistics about decreasing dwell times at trade fairs speak a clear language. Corona will reinforce this development. Today's visitors want to find out in advance online what there is to see at the trade fair in terms of their interests and then visit the relevant exhibitors in a targeted manner.

But it's precisely this crucial visitor question that trade shows today often can't answer: "What's exciting to see about my interests?" The reason is that trade shows don't even know the exhibitors' stories.

But these stories are the missing link between visitors and exhibitors. Only if these stories are accessible online can visitors be picked up on their interests, led to interesting stories and, in the end, put in touch with the right exhibitors.


We need to think fundamentally differently about trade show websites and exhibitor directories

But why can't trade shows map exhibitors' stories online? In my opinion, the reason lies in today's trade show websites and exhibitor directories. Trade show websites today consist mostly of "advertising" for the trade show, such as reasons for visiting, which partners support the trade show, how interesting the supporting program is, etc. Most of the time, they do not aim to bring visitors and exhibitors together. Exhibitor directories can be seen to have their roots in the catalog business. They usually feel like a combination of a cumbersome Yellow Pages and a loveless product catalog. In addition, they usually lead a shadowy existence next to the trade show website. Neither format is suitable for making exhibitors' stories accessible online.

We therefore need a completely new way of thinking about trade show websites and exhibitor directories. Or rather, we no longer need either. What we need instead are trade show content platforms that make trade shows an online experience and bring the right visitors and exhibitors together. To do this, exhibitors need to be able to present their stories on the content platform before the show. And we need to guide each visitor to interesting stories and thus to relevant exhibitors based on their interests.

For this content platform, we need new technology with algorithms that identify which exhibitors' stories really interest visitors and display them prominently. And we need personalization, because not every visitor is interested in the same thing. And we need recommendation engines that show the most relevant stories to each interest. And we need to support exhibitors to create the most attractive stories as easily as possible. And we need much more.


Do you have the courage?

But what we need above all is courage. Because this path means that the organizer no longer determines what is on the trade fair content platform (i.e. on its website), but the exhibitors do. Exactly the same as has always been the case in every exhibition hall.

I am convinced that this courage will be richly rewarded. Because with a trade show content platform, the trade show no longer just takes place in the halls, but online at the same time. And this means that trade shows can deliver on their value proposition even as visitors' information needs change (and even during the corona pandemic) and bring the right people together.

If you have the courage, please contact us. Because we have developed the described technology in the last years and have already successfully used it at more than 15 trade fairs. I look forward to hearing from you (even if you don't have the courage or don't agree with my thoughts).