Construction Trade Shows – Who gets the benefit?

  • Building Design Expert
  • 8 years ago

Construction Trade Shows

I have been an atom of the construction industry for more years than I care to remember, and probably attended more trade shows than I need to remember. So why do we do it? As ever there are various schools of thought, but having appeared as a speaker, and attended as a punter I have seen a little of both sides of the exhibition screens, forming some opinions along the way.

Business before pleasure

First and foremost we must not loose sight of the fact that, without exception, all construction trade shows operate as a business. In the background there is an operating company that will hire the venue, thereafter they will invoke a logistics machine, the size and capacity of which is directly proportional to the size and capacity of the trade show, and seek to confirm pre-lets of exhibition stands, and sell un-let stand space to other exhibitors. Those exhibitors being product and process manufacturers and distributors, of anything from¬†Drill Bits to Drill Pipe Protectors,¬†who consider that direct contact with the potential audience the show will attract is going to directly enhance their sales. So every one’s a winner. Or at least that’s the idea.

Anyone who owns or runs a business knows there are risks involved. The biggest risk is of not making a profit. The biggest task is to put together a package with the right colour ribbons to attract the target audience. The ribbon colour that has worked best for a number of years now, for the construction professional audience, is of course ‘green’. There are differing shades of green, but it’s green none the less.

Do we need a reason?

This blog is first published at a somewhat topical time, that being just before Ecobuild 2013. Not heard of Ecobuild? I dare say there are one or two cave dwellers in southern Patagonia who may qualify, but if you are an active part of today’s construction industry, you will have done remarkably well to avoid the reach of their giant marketing machine. The clue, as ever, is in the name – ‘Eco’. There is also Ecoshowcase, but check Green Build Expo and the Renewables Roadshow; is a theme coming through here? Timber is the most sustainable (on a commercial level) building material of choice, so there is Timber Expo. Exhibitions, Shows, call them what you will. All geared towards ringing out the most of the industry’s omni-present hot topic – ‘Sustainability’.

The sustainability forum

Views on sustainability are well documented in previous blogs so we can leave that alone this time around. Although turn up to any ‘Green’ show and you will find manufacturers who dig huge quantities of a natural and finite resource out of the ground, look you straight in the eye and tell you their products sustainable. I did say I wasn’t going to do that one didn’t I?

Who attends?

Different people go to these shows for different reasons: Some to get the low down on new, replacement and hopefully innovative products and processes where they can be displayed, demonstrated and generally shown off in some sort of context. Coupled with a day out of the office, it’s usually an attractive proposition to the hard pressed construction professional. Then there is the networking contingent. Ever wondered how those little tete-a-tetes come about – to one side of the large stands, there are well turned out men, and more and more frequently women sat with a nice plate of sandwiches and cakes, perhaps a glass or two of cold chardonnay. These have always looked like potentially compromising situations, so I try to take my own crisps and sandwiches, although occasionally I might blow a weeks wages on a large cup of coffee if it looks attractive enough. Captive audience sales are always the same; they over-charge because they can.

I always go with the mindset that I must not under any circumstances agree to accept product literature. I am sure I’m not the only one who takes home a free cloth carrier bag full, for it to sit in the corner of the office for six months, before it has suddenly become out of date and finds its way to the recycling bin. Write: “I must not accept product literature” 1000 times, but I generally do.

Seminar Junkies

The serial CPDer will naturally make a bee-line for the seminars. They take a chance here on 30 – 40 minutes of pure rhetoric, or happening across someone who really knows his or her subject, and can impart one or two resonant nuggets. Having said that, after the forth or fifth talk it’s very easy to feel all seminared out, and you go find that brick manufacturer so they can tell you their bricks are sustainable. Whether you have the energy to discuss this particular sales pitch may be another issue.

Seminar junkies are generally not the manufacturers best friends, because as long as they are sat in a room remote from the main exhibition floor they cannot be sold on any of the manufactured fifty shades of green, although some do stray into the unsustainably grey spectrum. But enough. Exhibitors are there for one reason – to get their message to those who might eventually turn it into a sale. Oh yes, and of course it’s a day out of the office for them too.

What to conclude?

Construction trade shows are a tried and tested format of providing from tens to hundreds of shop windows for exhibitors to dress in the most imaginative way possible in their continued attempts to attract the attention of passing shoppers, and with a keen eye on their market share. Exhibition design has become quite an industry. Much like product design, and yes of course architecture. If we are attracted to a building, a product, or an exhibition stand; there’s a half reasonable chance that it will create a memorable moment in time. So here’s hoping you can bring your best head, because it’s our memories that exhibitors are relying upon.