“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”
Live trade shows are back, and the trade show industry is finally showing signs of recovery. Many companies are getting back to their trade show booths and are beginning to conduct face-to-face business once again. However, exhibiting companies are still facing many challenges, but the most significant has been an overall reduction in their trade show budgets compared to 2019.
These budget reductions have been a driving factor for Exhibit Vendors and Suppliers struggling to regain their footing. We are all aware that the past year was extremely tough for many exhibit houses and in some cases, devastating. Many companies had to furlough employees, and unfortunately, some companies had no other choice but to sell or face permanent closure. According to the June 2021 Exhibitor Insight report, “roughly one in five corporate exhibit managers reported that their primary exhibit provider may no longer be in business.”
The exhibit houses that have weathered the last year and half face significant financial impacts from the previous drought, along with an ongoing labor shortage and escalating prices from vendors. About 32% of previously furloughed staff have found positions outside of the industry. Additionally, 31% of vendors are recruiting new talent but are reporting issues finding enough applicants or quality applicants. (Exhibitor Insight Report June 2021)
As a result, exhibiting companies may find themselves without an exhibit house partner or one struggling to meet their needs. So, unfortunately, it may be time to ask the tough question.
IS IT TIME TO FIND A NEW EXHIBIT PARTNER?
If you are considering a new exhibit partner, be sure to consider the following questions:
Is your current exhibit partnership salvageable?
If you have not communicated your concerns or issues to your account executive, that should be your first step. If your exhibiting partner is unaware of your concerns, they will not be able to fix anything. However, if you have taken the time and energy to communicate your issues and your needs are continuously unmet, and your numerous concerns have not been addressed, then it may be time for a change. The decision could also be based on budgetary and quality matters. For example, an exhibit house may not be able to deliver your expectations with your new budget or material and service short-cuts could hamper the outcome.
What should you consider before changing your exhibit partner?
Before communicating anything to your exhibit partner, you need to do a full review of the contracts. Make sure you are aware of any discounts that were based on the length of the contract. You want to avoid having to pay back these discounts due to early termination. I recommend reviewing contracts with upper management and your internal legal teams to prevent any breach of agreements or timing. If there are no contractual issues, then you should be able to start the process of looking for a new partner.
What should you gather before leaving your exhibit partner?
You need to confirm and validate all the information for your current trade show program. Ensure you have copies of all designs, an accurate inventory of assets, updated color schemes and finish names, and what items are rented v. owned. You also want to compile a pricing history to help you compare costs for new services. Having all of this in your possession will make the transition go smoothly to a new company.
How to find the right new exhibit partner for you?
When you already have an existing trade show booth, looking for a new exhibit partner is slightly different from starting the process from scratch. Of course, it would help if you still went through the same vendor selecting process or RFP, but there will be less information regarding design.
Also, take this opportunity to discuss the various issues early in the process that prompted you to leave the last exhibit house. You may also want to vet the candidates thoroughly and understand the new account executives’ level of experience they will bring to the table.
For more information on the below, read my article 5 Key Steps to Plan a Trade Show Exhibit.
Design Process (Developing the RFP)
Choosing Your Partner
Production & I&D Process
If you would like free copies of my RFI, RFP, Design Questionnaire, and General Proposal templates please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I move my exhibit display to the new exhibit house?
The last piece of the puzzle is to physically move your exhibit display from your current vendor to the new one. You may need to hire a third-party shipping company, and it may be wise to have someone from your staff or your new vendor’s staff on-site to do an inventory of all display assets before shipping. It may also be a good idea to do another inventory when the shipment has arrived at its destination.
Making the decision to leave your current exhibit house can be difficult, and although it is business, it can also feel personal. Prior to the pandemic this decision would have been a difficult one, so the additional factors will make it that much harder. The truth is that you must make the tough decisions to continue providing your customers with an engaging and memorable trade show experience.
At Lab Exhibits & Services, we can help you with all aspects of your live trade show custom and rental display needs. We are also currently developing virtual environments that will serve as extensions of live events. Please allow us the opportunity to share our ideas with you and help you create opportunities for the coming year.