In the event…

Hamlet’s existential crisis led him to wonder, “to be, or not to be,” but technology companies face an equally vital quandary when it comes to trade shows and other industry events: To go, or not to go. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering whether or not to invest money and time in a trade show.

1 – What is the business case for attending?

Yes, it’s fun to meet up with your buddies in Las Vegas for (free) drinks, but it is important to know what your company will get out of attending an event. Is your goal to generate leads, scope out the competition, get press coverage, or look for a potential buyer for your business? It’s a basic question, but it’s important to have a clear view of your goal before you go. If your objective is an undefined term like “awareness,” you probably need to set some more concrete goals.

2 – Is it the right event?

This is another simple question, but we’ve seen TONS of companies come back from shows and complain that “the right people weren’t there.” It’s not enough to pick a show that is relevant to your field – you also need to make sure that the attendees correspond to your business goals. For example, if you need to meet with CIOs and CTOs you probably won’t get much bang for your buck if you exhibit at a show that’s geared toward programmers and IT staff.

3 – What is the REAL cost of attending?

You can register for a show for a few thousand dollars, but the costs skyrocket quickly from there. Why? Because show organizers are monopolies that have no qualms about charging you $500 to rent a 10-foot square of carpet for three days or making you pay $1000 to hang a sign. Before you sign on the dotted line, read over the menu of services to determine how much you will really end up spending. The answer will probably shock you.

4 – Should I sponsor anything?

As soon as you sign up for a show, chances are that your next email will be from the show organizers asking if you want to shell out a couple of grand to sponsor a lunch, cocktail hour or breakfast. In most cases we advise our clients to skip these opportunities. They don’t really add credibility and are quickly forgotten – if they were ever remembered in the first place.

5 – Should I “go big”?

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle at a trade show, which is why many companies try to cut through the clutter with huge booths, massive signs, over-the-top light shows and “booth babes” to drive traffic. There is no one right answer, but it all comes back to ROI: will spending $90k as opposed to $20k really move the needle? For some companies the answer may be yes, but in our 10 years of supporting clients at events the end result is usually unrelated to the size of the company’s presence.

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