What's Fair For Trade Shows?

Josh GordonTraveling recently on business to Boston, I took the time that airlines create for passengers by locking down electronics to read something we'll all be telling our kids about one day - newspapers. Specifically, the New York Times. The article that caught my attention comes from Times business writer Brad Stone.

Stone details the latest installment of "Great Trade Show Battles." Michael Arrington, founder of the popular Internet blog TechCrunch, is taking on DEMO, one of the bigger pay-to-play trade shows around. TechCrunch’s model is currently designed to put start ups in front of audiences comprised of venture capitalists, investors, and prospective clients. Sounds like all the others, right? Well, the difference is how they do it. They screen their applicants, allowing only the top 50 through to the conference, letting them present their wares for free – the kind of price most start ups prefer. Those 50 companies must be pretty special, too (at least to the selection committee). The pool of applicants is over 1,000. Sure, TechCrunch’s show makes money on sponsorships and all of that standard stuff, but their willingness and commitment to cutting some of the noise and linking together both those providing solutions and those seeking them is refreshing.

Of course, the tangential benefit of being selected is just as important as the low price of inclusion. It is an accomplishment, in and of itself, to be selected to present. Start ups will wear that selection like a badge of honor and get a bunch of PR and marketing buzz out of it.

What this battle introduces to a wide swath of audiences is the groundswell of support for effective ways trade shows can facilitate the selection and education of solution providers and seekers. Some trade shows become very enamored with themselves, and forget that their real mission should be a strong commitment to their attendees’ researching and finding an effective solution for their business.

What makes this relevant to Knotice’s blog is that we attend a few trade shows and are always seeking ways to stand out in a crowd. Usually, shows do anything to make money, so there are no limits on who exhibits and how. That puts pressure on the exhibitors (which we actually like) to do something outlandish and interesting. Since we’re not going to TechCrunch, and we are going to Shop.org Annual Summit in Vegas next month, we’ve planned something we hope is interesting. If you plan on attending, check out our booth (#222) – you can’t miss it.

Oh, and the web version of the newspaper article I read can be found here. It’s guaranteed not to get ink on your hands.

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