Some trade shows really need to re-think their strategies. If other delegates walk out of tradeshows feeling the way I did today, then it’s not a great sign for the tradeshow.

I have been to hundreds of tradeshows in my time and quite frankly, I quite enjoy them. You get to meet interesting people, find out about products and services you may in fact need or if you don’t, your client does, and on the odd occasion, you identify companies in which you can possibly do work with in the future.

Today, I decided to go down to the Carbon Reduction and Trading Expo 2009 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

To spend 2 hours at a tradeshow, I must admit that I want it to be a worthy investment of my time. Sadly, this tradeshow was not.

The trade show that promised to be so much more than what it was – did not live up to my expectations.

I cannot open a newspaper without reading a story about climate change, carbon trading, carbon reducing products, government regulations on carbon emissions, carbon auctions – you name it, if it’s about carbon, its in the newspapers, every single day.

We are currently at the height of carbon trading madness – so how can a tradeshow about the hottest topic on the planet (other than Obama!) be such a failure.

Firstly, I must define failure as it is at the end of the day my thoughts (and perhaps the general concensus of every person I spoke to whether they were an exhibitor or a delegate like myself)

A failure to me is:-

- Not an adequate number of exhibitors to visit
- Not enough of a cross-section of exhibitors
- Not enough investment in exhibitor stands – there would have been 4 or 5 acceptable stands in terms of marketing their brands and communicating what they do
- Not enough visitors. They said today was the most people that they had had, yet people were scarce. Many exhibitors where not even manning their stands.
- Exhibitors weren’t sure if they would get a good return on their investment
- Exhibitors thought that there would be more people

The list can go on and on but I have chosen not to bore you further. That would mean that I too would have been added to the list of failures for today and I am not too keen to do that. Not right now, anyway.

Needless to say, I was there for 1/2 an hour and of that time, I visited 3 clients.

Why is such a topical event not bursting at the seams with people in the industry and in particular the Top 200 companies who are all going to have to be abreast of carbon trading by 2010?

Simple. Marketing. And a compelling reason as to why someone should give up a couple of hours of their day to attend.

To be honest, if my clients hadn’t told me about it, I would not have known this event exists.

I have received no emails, no direct marketing pieces and certainly have not seen any advertising. To have a successful event, you need to let people know. They have great sponsors in Sustainability Victoria, Coffey Environments, Origin and PointCarbon. It’s on at a time of the year that no other major carbon reduction and trading event is on so they are not competing with anyone. What is their excuse? I probably will never know, nor would they probably care to enlighten me on the subject (which is fair enough really).

For exhibitors, I know that last year it wasn’t as big an event as other major carbon trading events held in Australia, so that may be why they were reluctant to exhibit.

The ones that did, didn’t invest enough in their stands but they would be thanking their lucky stars that they didn’t as in this particular case it may have been a waste of money.

When choosing which tradeshow to invest in, think about who is attending, who is exhibiting, how successful they were the year before and how many of your competitors will be there.

If it is the right tradeshow for your business, make sure you invest in your stand. Make it stand out from the crowd. Give people compelling reasons to visit. Invest in pre-event marketing to delegates. Have a post-event marketing and customer relationship management strategy in place BEFORE you attend. Work out what your ROI is on your tradeshow investment and make sure you do the sums. Work out whether the event was a worthy investment for you and your business.

With the economy how it is, I am hoping that those who exhibited at least walked away with enough sales to cover their costs. I can tell you, when I was there, it didn’t look too promising.

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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

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