In my travels I meet a lot of people whose companies sponsor trade shows and conferences. Some of them question the value they get from their investment of time and money in exhibiting. Those who are unsure of the ROI from participating often surprise me, as the events where they are vendors are often overflowing with A-Level contacts in the industries they desire.
Whose fault is it when a company does not find value in their trade show sponsorship? Depends on the situation, but often there is finger pointing when the problem is within.
The responsibility can rest with the people who are there to "work the booth". Too often they waste the opportunities to make connections with other people. They spend their time talking to co-workers or other vendors and they do no nothing to engage the people who are walking around the trade show floor. They are hoping the "big fish" will just fall into their net as they juggle the stress balls and read Facebook posts.
Too many people from the sponsoring companies fail to attend the keynotes, breakout workshops, and other conference activities. If someone misses the shared experiences at a conference, they are not part of the event. They are outsiders. If you did not see the speaker's presentations, then you are not part of the mini-society that is created at an event. Some claim they have work to do during those talks (their priorities that day should be focused on the event) or that the topics do not match their interests (too bad). If you did not participate side by side with the attendees you are not their peer. Instead they see you as a "vendor" who is only present to pounce on sales opportunities. A small investment of time make you part of the community.
The companies who sponsor are also at fault for sending employees to events without training. It is assumed that sales and marketing professionals understand how to network at events, but that assumption results in a lot of money being wasted at trade shows. Many successful companies host pre-event and post event team meetings to discuss the details of how they will be engaged at a trade show. They bring in outside trainers to educate their staff on the best-practices of working a show and do not leave their ROI of sponsorship to chance.
When a trade show or conference sponsorship fails to result in leads their is often accusations at the event itself fell short. While there are some weak events, the blame rarely belongs to the organizers. If people were in attendance and your team failed to meet them or make a meaningful connections, this is due to their actions (or lack of actions).
In talking with CEO's they all claim their employees are great at working trade shows. However, when I walk the floor at most conferences there are few sponsors who have a clue on how to be engaging. This is a huge disconnect, and one that wastes time and money.
I was referred to a company who participates in a lot of trade shows in their industry. The thought was I could offer training to their team. An internal employee made the recommendation to the CEO and COO. When I met with these executives they said it was not necessary as they had excellent internal training systems on this topic for their people. When I saw this company at a trade show their representatives were tossing a football the whole time that prospective contacts were roaming about the booths. This is far too common.
To get value from your trade show sponsorship you must get your people committed to the work involved at being at a conference. It is not just a day away from the office. It is hard work. When managers assume their team are great at connecting at trade shows they are usually wasting everyone's time and a lot of the company's money.
If you organization sponsors events create a "blitz" mentality for the next show. Get all team members committed to being heavily engaged in the full days of the event. The more involved they are in the event the better connections they will make. And better contacts will lead to more opportunities.
Have A Great Day.