Weekly Insights: The Case of the Mysterious Vanishing Trade Show

Graphic: © Digital Juice

Graphic: © Digital Juice

Earlier this week, I decided to register for an upcoming show which I’ve wanted to attend for years but never could fit into my schedule before. So I went to their website and it was down for maintenance. No problem. But then I came back several hours later only to find the same thing. I decided to check out their Facebook and Twitter feeds in the meantime to see what news they’d been posting and if they indicated when their site would be up again. And that’s when things got really mysterious …

Turns out that their social media accounts all went dark last summer. Not good. So I let it rest until the next day, and being the reporter I am, began sleuthing around online. It appears the show (which I won’t name here, but it had a pretty stable history) won’t be happening this year, and likely not ever again. Not that show organizers have said that … or anything, for that matter. But thanks to social media, their attendees and even a few speakers are having their say in the matter. One previous keynote speaker even advised an attendee to steer clear of the event because organizers had “bailed” (to which the attendee responded that he’d already booked his non-refundable flight). There are lots of grumblings from past and intending-to-be-future attendees, some of whom had already paid their registration last year before things went south and are now left wondering about refunds.

So what went wrong? Nobody seems to know. I even checked with a trade show insider friend and she was as surprised as I was. Perhaps it was a show that had run its course (not likely, based on the popularity online), or the show’s owners decided to go a different direction (other shows in their portfolio seem to still be happening this year). But the reality is that everyone would have been more understanding if the truth had simply been communicated upfront instead of doing a vanishing act. When dealing with a loyal fan base, you can’t risk angering them by hiding your head in the sand, especially when it comes to money already collected. While no one would have been happy to hear the show was going away, at least they wouldn’t have been left wondering, feeling cheated and abandoned. And the show could have gone out in a blaze of glory instead of a puff of smoke.

I’m just sorry I never got to experience this show … partly so I could have happy memories of good times, instead of this sad, sinking feeling of a story with a tragic end.

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.


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    • By Marlys Arnold

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