Interview with Elfie Adler, Managing Director of FAMAB e.V., Association for Direct Business Communications
Exhibition construction companies offer exhibitors more than just an exhibition booth. FAMAB Managing Director Elfie Adler views them as partners for all functions of trade fairs – from planning all the way to press relations and catering. FAMAB, who also has an exhibit at the next EuroShop, is an association for trade shows and marketing events. In this interview, Elfi Adler gives tips on how exhibitors can reduce their trade fair stress and improve their work.
Trade shows and Christmas have one thing in common: they are already scheduled in your calendar and still they seem to sneak up surprisingly fast. How can exhibiting companies avoid pre-trade show stress?
There is also a similarity to Christmas when it comes to planning: the key to success is in planning and preparing the trade show early enough. At best, the exhibitor starts planning immediately after the pre-event, because at that point all good or bad issues from the trade show are still present. In any case, you should allow a half year to make a trade show a success from A as in “selecting an exhibition construction company” to Z as in “target controls.”
One aspect that prevents trade show stress is the selection of the right partner, who is responsible for the realization of the booth and also manages accompanying arrangements for the participation in a trade fair. Booth construction companies specialize in this and create the right stage for the exhibitor’s appearance. The booth construction is not the only thing that is part of this stage. Inviting visitors to the trade show, selecting exhibits, planning trade show events to motivate trade fair visitors, press relations, accompanying events of the trade show, training booth personnel, fair catering etc. are also part of it. All these are measures that go along with a successful trade exhibition and where an exhibition construction company can show its expertise. It’s a mistake to think that conceptual and organizational duties and responsibilities can be done by a company’s marketing or sales department “casually and along the way.” These departments are used to capacity with their other duties, so they cannot deal with important deadlines about the participation in the fair like booth location, acquiring access to water or electricity, booth construction, permit procedures etc. in addition to their other responsibilities.
Take FAMAB for example: How do you prepare your performance at the EuroShop in the next months?
At this point we are already in the midst of our preparations. The booth concept has been decided, and we are currently working on topics and contents which we will present during the course of the EuroShop.
What will you show EuroShop visitors?
As an association you have – similar to service providers – little to show, because the expertise that FAMAB has is tucked away in the brains of the associates. What we can tell you already though is this: Our purchasing co-operative ESG will celebrate its 20th anniversary during the EuroShop. We will wind down each trade show day with a so-called “yellow hour“, where the FAMAB organized caterers from the “LECA” forum will show us what they can do. In terms of content we will focus on the topics of sustainability and brand staging – focal points of our current work. And then there is also our Event area, an event-oriented research- and inspiration tool for live communication, which we will carry to the third dimension during the EuroShop. These are all measures that make our members proud of their association membership and convince market participants to join us.
How will you monitor the trade fair success after the event?
The goals that we pursue by participating at the EuroShop are to get in touch with our members and trade representatives, winning new members, contact with schools and students, lobbying with the trade sector in mind and public relations. Of course we will monitor whether we were able to reach our goals in those areas, even if they were difficult to operationalize in some parts. The results of the previous EuroShop of course serve as a guideline. We measure quality and quantity of our visitors and revisit every conversation following the trade show. We have benefited from our conversations from previous FAMAB participations at the EuroShop for more than a year afterward.
Trade shows compete more and more against the in-house exhibitions of companies. Are large trade shows becoming obsolete?
Even if the term in-house exhibition contains the word exhibition: This is not an exhibition in the usual sense of the word, because first of all the power play within the trade sector is missing. How does your company rate compared to the competition? How is the demand in the market shown? Which company is favored by ”high-potentials“? Secondly, only people that were invited will come to an in-house exhibition. At a “real“ exhibition, I get the chance to meet potential customers that I did not know before. To make a long story short: Trade fairs are tribe meetings of an industry sector, while in-house exhibitions are comparable to a family party. Both have their own validity and have certainly not become obsolete.
What chance do small speciality trade shows with about 5000 trade visitors have?
In a market with highly specialized products and just as highly specialized consumers, a trade show with 5,000 visitors has its place. The skill is in bringing the right exhibitors and potential customers together. This is a challenge more and more exhibition corporations have to face.
In the past new products were introduced at trade shows. Today there are films on the Web and communities to exchange experiences. How do you and your members react to the challenge of the Internet?
The online communication has changed trade shows. That much is clear. In the technical area, trade shows show less of the actual product, but rather attend to trouble shooting for the customer. This means, the booth personnel today is of much greater importance than it used to be years ago. It is imperative to achieve confidence in a company and its expertise and less about demonstrating engineering skills. The situation is completely different in creative fields. The trade visitor wants to feel the silk, wants to sit on a couch or feel how comfortable the knife feels in the palm of your hand. These are things, the Internet simply cannot convey. That is why members of FAMAB today more often design communicative booth concepts with large areas that serve the dialog and less the product demonstration. The know-how of quality-tested specialists lies in finding the right way for an individual presentation.
Show program, Carrera track and a cocktail bar: For which exhibiting companies do such optional extras make sense?
I urgently advise against “L’art pour l’art“ (“art for art’s sake”). Events at the booth only make sense, if they boost the brand and the product and are not just there to attract attention. Several years ago, body painting was a relished and a frequently seen event at a trade booth. If you asked trade visitors in the hall where you can see some cool events, you were without fail directed to those specific hall areas. However, barely any of the people you asked remembered the name of the company at which booth the event took place. Even using a Top chef to demonstrate the amenities of a new oven has lost its appeal by now.
Which trends do you see at events at the exhibition booth?
If a company decides to do a trade-accompanying event, it needs to fit with the product and brand and should not just be a “Me-too-event”. Individuality should very much be in the foreground. Examples for this are the exhibition events that are awarded with an EVA. EVA stands for event award and the projects can be found at www.eva-award.de.
And where is the development in booth construction headed?
The individual concept is also at the foreground here. An exhibition booth is a company’s stage and temporary home. It is not about whether edges are now considered round or black is supposedly the new white. In this case, a special award also offers a view of outstanding concepts. It is called ADAM and the award winners can be viewed at www.adam-award.de.
Interview by René Schellbach, EuroShop.de