E-commerce: An Exhibitor Drain? Think you can get complacent with theindustry enjoying record growth? No way. Traditional sales, marketing, and service methods are rapidly morphing due to the Internet. Just one example: In the next five years, Procter & Gamble will shift 80 percent of its ad dollars to cyberspace.
So said Dr. Oren Harari, author of Leapfrogging the Competition, during his keynote address at the International Association for Exposition Management's December annual meeting, held in Nashville's Opryland Hotel. " You've got to lead the market, not respond to it," he told the packed audience.
As if to illustrate his point, a new virtual trade show product attracted a lot of attention at the conference. Developed by Third Millennium Communications, Inc. in Atlanta, the system's features include online registration, an e-mail distribution list, and an exhibitor directory. What is unique about expoexchange is its e-commerce capability, which allows exhibitors to sell directly through the show Web site.
Asked whether this ability would, in the long run, erode exhibitor participation at the live event, outgoing IAEM chairman Lawson Hockman, answered, "there is no doubt that business-to-business e-commerce is going to affect trade shows--not always in positive ways. But many people in the industry think it's better to make technology work for you rather than run away from it."
Another hot topic at the educational seminars was acquisition of shows and show management firms by equity investment companies--by all accounts a "seismic shift" in an industry dominated by entrepreneurs, associations, mom-and-pop organizations, and a few large companies like Reed and Miller Freeman. Leading the acquisition trend is Boston-based Advanstar Holdings, Inc., which, funded by an equity investment company, has made 22 purchases in just two years. Advanstar executives led two sessions on how show managers can grow their events with equity and venture capital.
The IAEM annual meeting drew 700 show managers and a total of 1,957 registrants.