Let’s Replace Trade Shows With True Industry Events

Let’s Replace Trade Shows With True Industry Events

The face-to-face social bonding aspects of trade shows stand out to all of us as the most irreplaceable feature of the trade show. But do we need after-parties and cocktail events to move our businesses forward? Really? How many warm relationships become ‘hot’ after 10 minutes of cocktail chit-chat? None (I hope). How many cold relations have become warm? A lot. But is it necessary to meet up face-to-face over drinks to accomplish social warm-up, with 1080p video chat capabilities? Not anymore.

Face-to-face communication we’ve now found out, is actually, really, truly irreplaceable for two things in business: 1) training in difficult skills that generate emotional resistance (i.e., avoidance) and require live social pressure, 2) making high stakes decisions with weak tie connections (i.e., requiring maximal trust verification and facial scanning). Let’s not pretend it’s less aggressive. I’ve done it. Many of you have done it. It’s all good, people. As long as there is no cussing or violence.

If we step back from these two usages of face-to-face communication in business, we see that the modern trade show’s booth-theater is way off-center. Like way. The modern booth at a packed trade show is NOT conducive to confidential, measured conversation and rapport building. It’s a theater of light flirtation at best, nothing more than wild sample hurling if your booth is busy.

What if we did something radical. What if trade shows morphed into truly ALL stakeholder events?

To do this, they need to blow up the ridiculous booth theater and re-imagine it entirely. The booths benefit no one, really, when I look at my field notes from over twenty shows I’ve attended in the last three years.

For one thing, stop selling booths or sampling stations to startups with no PRIOR CPG experience. Give this privilege away for free, or make up a formula to vet the serious folks (no part-time hobbyists). Everyone would prefer the latter. “Oh, you made it into Expo West” “Wow. You have your shit together.”

Segregate the companies into “Tracks” based on business performance so that EVERYONE knows how to spend their time best. Phase 1 brands do not need to have their time wasted being approached by branding agencies that charge a minimum of $18K for a website.

Dr. James Richardson

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