KISS: Keep It Simple Sometimes?
Editor's Note: TSNN is thrilled to have Charlie Olentine, who for the past 12 years managed the International Production & Processing Expo, signed on as a regular blogger to share his insights on the trade show industry.
"Customers require the effective integration of technologies to simplify their workflow and boost efficiency." Anne M. Mulcahy, Past CEO, Xerox
Go to any trade show meeting and the term “experiential” comes up. Organizers want the attendees to come out of a show with a WOW experience. But what about the exhibitor? Too often the experience is one of confusion and dread.
I recently had the chance to sit in on a panel discussing how complicated the process is for an exhibitor to coordinate their show experience and how organizers need to simplify the process. For most large exhibitors, the process is handled by an in-house person whose responsibility it is to coordinate a number of shows for the company or the company will use a third party (EAC: Exhibitor Appointed Contractor). For the smaller exhibitors the task of handling show logistics often is to hand the logistics responsibilities to an administrative assistant or a salesman who drew the short straw. Sympathize for the international exhibitor who has a perfunctory knowledge of English.
As the logistics coordination begins the organizer sends either by mail or digitally an exhibitor manual the size of Webster’s Dictionary. We all know that it is difficult to get anyone to read an email, let alone a book. Assuming that the coordinator reads the manual, the daunting task of filling out order forms can be mind-blowing. Consider the following forms to be completed:
1. Certificate of insurance
2. Contract with the organizer
3. Coordination of all freight going to and coming from the show
4. Furniture/carpet order
5. Food & beverage for the booth
6. Lead retrieval
7. Utilities (For many coordinators it seems like the electrical order forms require a mastery of the trade)
8. Communications, such as phones, internet access
9. Registration for booth personnel
10. Hotel coordination of booth personnel.
11. Floral order
The above are just the basics and probably entail at least seven or eight different vendors, all of which require credit authorization and filling out of a wide variety of forms requiring basically the same information. Add to this the fact that most of the vendors will require exclusive logins and passwords. After the show, reconciling the various invoices can be cumbersome and can take a long period of time.
The challenges of simplifying the experience and process is difficult and expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice if an exhibitor could go to a single site and address all of the show logistics with a single login/password?
Progress is being made but it will take time. For example, the successful service providers will be those which offer a transparent and simple solution. Consolidation and strategic alliances are now forming which will facilitate the process. Combinations of logistics such as hotel booking, lead retrieval and show registration are a logical first step. Large general service contractors who are buying housing companies, registration companies, freight logistics companies and A/V firms. Having a one-stop supplier may sound nice but does an organizer want to put all of the show eggs in one basket, relying on the good will of the GSC?
What future trends by the show organizer can alleviate the exhibitor logistic stress? There are examples of shows that take on the role of general service contractor, consolidating the number of vendors in the process through subcontracting. Also, packaging turnkey booth packages can improve the process for the exhibitor, but it adds another layer of management on the organizer at a significant cost.
Technology offers a lot of opportunities to simplify the exhibitor’s experience, but we are still a long way from “keeping it simple stupid.”