Hi! It’s us!
Sarah and I recently had the opportunity to exhibit at the APMA National Conference in Denver. We were so glad to be back in person to see all our friends and colleagues!
You may have noticed that Sarah and I always try to focus on the positive and steer clear of negativity no matter where we’re at. So, it’s my goal to practice what we preach. While on the sales floor, we heard many of the same comments we hear at other shows, including complaints about the number of attendees, hall traffic, and exhibit hall hours. I always try to turn these conversations around to focus on what is working and what we are excited about (like being back in-person!), but on the flight home, I got to thinking about WHY our exhibitor colleagues were frustrated.
Some of the questions that crossed my mind included:
What determines if a show “sucks”? What are the metrics for “suck”? Attendance numbers? Hall traffic? Exhibit hall hours? Length of breaks? It could be a combination of all of these, in addition to the cost to exhibit and other factors.
While I am truly glad we were able to be back together in person, it has become obvious that in-person trade shows are different than they were pre-pandemic; maybe temporarily, but also maybe forever. As exhibitors, we are simply going to have to adjust expectations moving forward and revisit goals and metrics for exhibiting.
We all know the main driving factor of “suck” is attendance numbers and hall traffic; no matter the show – large or small. I do believe that while attendance numbers are lower than usual, the quality of the traffic to each booth seems to have improved. There weren’t as many window shoppers looking for “freebies”, there were more people interested in learning about new companies never seen before, in addition to networking with familiar favorites about what’s new or how they are revamping products or services.
One way meeting planners can help with the attendee number disconnect or confusion is to provide a true count of on-site attendees. Exhibitors don’t need to see an attendee list that includes faculty, speakers, staff, and committee members (even though they are DPMs). While it makes a spreadsheet of attendees appear larger, this is actually a “shoot yourself in the foot” move because exhibitors will expect more DPM traffic. If the numbers are bloated, the vendor’s expectations will not be met and planners will have disgruntled exhibitors on their hands.
Those that are working at the conference, or speaking may pop into the hall, but won’t likely have much of an opportunity to engage with exhibitors due to their responsibilities. Attendee lists should include a column for “role” (ex. speaker, staff, committee member) so exhibitors can easily see how many potential decision-makers will be there.
I am lucky enough to have similar conversations with all the different podiatric “audiences”, including vendors, DPMs and meeting planners and committee members. What I kept hearing was that the days of 75 or more podiatric trade shows a year are behind us. We can agree that we will all benefit from 5-15 really active shows, rather than spreading ourselves too thin. So how will that work? Will some conferences simply fade away? Will some join with others to create a larger conference? Only time will tell…
Being back at an in-person conference for the first time in a while, I had “fresh eyes” to see what works and where improvements can be made. For example, this year I really loved the layout of the exhibit hall at the National. It was interesting because it wasn’t your typical layout with row after row of inline booths. Many booths were facing different directions and some double and island booths were in unexpected locations. I thought the large open APMA booth in the middle was great because it encouraged a special kind of energy and wandering around.
I absolutely loved the grand opening reception in the exhibit hall. I wish it had been one hour longer because the energy was amazing and there were plenty of people to chat with, say hello to, and many opportunities to hug old friends. I didn’t want to leave.
One key note to mention – Kudos to APMA and especially Melanie Carter for delivering a well-organized conference during very difficult times. There will always be room for improvement in every situation, but we are doing ourselves a disservice if we choose to only focus on the negative.
I encourage you to share your feedback on this show, or any other podiatric show, by completing a survey (remember – it’s anonymous!). Always feel open to be as honest as you can, but take some time to reflect on every show completely – the good and the bad; and if there is bad, offer some suggestions for improvement (vs. taking the time to simply vent). Click this link to complete a survey:
Are you curious about what others are saying about this year’s National? Here’s a few we pulled out of the pile:
“Great to be back in person. Vendor hall hours were too short leading to a lot of downtime.”
“Attendance was as expected for the first big meeting back. Low but quality. Good to be back in a vendor hall.”
“Would have loved to have had more events in the hall to drag people in more frequently.”