Tradeshow Week surveyed 323 executives and managers in a range of industries and sectors, and found some surprising results about who attends tradeshows during a recession, and why. The online marketing industry is amongst the fastest growing, and constantly changing sectors in the world, so amidst a recession (or arguably an upward economic trend) a marketer may have to balance travel expenses with their equally important need to keep their heads above the water to keep pace – I know I have the same concerns. So with the aforementioned obvious winner a given, what other reasons rounded out the top 5?
1. Keep up to date
As mentioned before the break, keeping up with the news, products and strategies of the industry is the number one reason respondents attend tradeshows in a recession. Despite the economic climate, progress stops for no one and nothing.
2. See new products
Another obvious winner in this list, “see new products” was ranked second highest in respondent surveys, but perhaps not for the obvious reasons. The recession does amazing things for tradeshows, because although fewer delegates attend from any one given company, those that do are often higher level executives with a greater share of decision-making influence.
On the flip side, I’m willing to bet more than a handful of vendors that end up exhibiting are new to any given show, as larger companies opt for smaller appearances. Therefore, it can be said that the recession can potentially create a perfect storm for conferences and tradeshows. This in part held true for Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, and as a result the upcoming show in Chicago will undoubtedly also have a distinct look and feel.
Tradeshows are a great place to network, and 70% of those surveyed agreed. Of particular note here is exactly who is doing the networking. In a recession, travel budgets are reduced, therefore you’re more likely to see local delegates from vendors and attendee companies, versus a much more varied mix in non-recession years.
4. See many companies at once
Surprisingly, 70% of attendees asked responded that they attend tradeshows to see multiple companies at once, which makes sense. With travel budgets being tight in a recession, you’re not likely to get all competitors within a specific vertical in one place at the same time. However, I’m also willing to bet that competition is fierce, and the best bargains can be struck when the competition is literally a few paces down the aisle in an exhibit hall. I don’t know whether that holds true for our industry, but I’ll be watching carefully at SES Chicago to find out.
5. Strengthen relationships
Translation: drink. What better way to wash away your sorrows during a recession than commiserate over a beer (or harder) in a good ol’ fashioned pub crawl. It’ll surely make that $3 Starbucks coffee the next day the best money you spend at a conference.
Speaking from experience, you ask? Sure am! Would I do it again? Sure will!
Honorable Mention: Get technical specifications
Maybe it’s a tad different for online marketers, but I always find that the best and brightest of any vendor’s delegates are on hand during a recession. It doesn’t make financial sense to send booth-babes that can lure people in, but not convert a prospect anymore. Far be it from me to turn a blind eye to booth babes, but does this really hold true? You bet your ass it does (no pun intended).
For instance, the ClickEquations booth at SES San Jose in August was manned by Alex Cohen (marketing dude) and Craig Danuloff (technical dude), and not 10 feet away was Avinash Kaushik (web analytics master sensei). Could you get more experts at a single booth? I think not. And how about NVI’s presence at SES Toronto earlier this year? Their guys were not only answering questions at their booth, but also supplied coverage from all sessions via Twitter and live-blogging. Walk the talk much?
I definitely look forward to SES Chicago delivering more of the same.
WTF Winner: Because our competition attends
Now I’m beginning to question the honesty of those that responded. I can think of at least twenty companies that attend a show like SES that only go because their competition is on hand as well. For only 19% to respond is a tad questionable.
Welfare Winner: Recruiting
Not looking for top talent at a tradeshow? Why the heck not? With only 2% of respondents indicating recruiting was a reason for attending shows leads me to think that maybe I’m not going to find my way to Google as quickly as I first thought… kidding. Take into account statistical uncertainty and that 2% might as well be zero. Looking for a job at a tradeshow? Look elsewhere, it seems.
In conclusion, it’s fairly easy to formulate more than a few reasons you should attend a tradeshow during a recession. All of these top reasons boil down to one thing: opportunity. Recessions breed winners and losers, and opportunists that apply what they learn at conferences often come out the former.