How to measure trade fair success?

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The ITB 2014 once again is over, the booths are dismantled and the exhibitors from all over the world are back at their desks. After the follow-ups with the most important customers, feedback sessions with the own fair staff are held, inquests are given and improvements for the ITB 2015 are noted.

Was the exhibition performance of this year successful? Did one reach the expected number of visitors at the booth? What do the visitors of the booth remember? Were the topics and advertising messages conveyed in a manner that they arrived “correctly” at the customers? Was the construction of the booth, optically and practically, optimally aligned with the needs of the fair staff and visitors? Did the press and public relations work out well and did it generate the appropriate media attention? …

Questions upon questions, whose reply, however, is of great importance in order to perform in a better way next year, if necessary. As an exhibition performance at the ITB is such a big cost factor in the marketing budget, the optimal use of the resources has to be justified to the management. Therefore, it is unfavorable if one cannot tell if the fair was successful or not.

Until now, measuring instruments for exhibition performances are rare – not only for the ITB but for exhibition performances in general. Since a few years the “Trade Fair Benefit Check” for an internal qualitative evaluation from the AUMA (Ausstellungs- und Messe-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft e.V.) exists, which serves as a good assistance for self-assessment. The software of AUMA does not only support the exhibitor in the evaluation of the participation in a fair, but also illustrates the cost-benefit-equation. Based on that, it is wise to include the Trade Fair Benefit Check already in the planning phase and whilst defining the objectives of the fair.

Nevertheless, qualitative criteria and soft factors cannot be recorded by the Trade Fair Benefit Check. Moreover, an external view is missing – the objective evaluation of the exhibition performance by customers. Therefore, exhibitors, who want to find out about the external evaluation, need to assign a market research agency for evaluating the exhibition performance. On the one hand, this is expensive; on the other hand, it does not assist in positioning oneself in the competitive environment.

The ITB identified this “gap” and consequently commissions the University of Applied Science Cologne Business School for the past 15 years to subject ALL fair booths at the ITB to a qualitative evaluation. Thereby, ITB created the only existing complete survey worldwide for a big exhibition. This so-called „Best Exhibitor Award (BEA)“ tests the most important criteria in 11 categories with regard to the topics booth design and division, booth staff and service as well as information material and overall concept. The greatest importance is attached to the B2B area of the booth (as the ITB is a trade fair in spite of all variety), the motivated acquaintance of the booth staff („Tourism is a people’s business“), as well as the authenticity and accordingly the overall concept of the booth (thereby, businesslike and less variegated booths may win within their category).

Through the evaluation by categories, the BEA became a benchmark indicator for the exhibitors of the ITB in the meantime. As the BEA takes up the perception of the booths by the customers, many exhibitors use the criteria catalogue of the BEA for the preparation of their exhibition performance. I myself take care of the BEA since so many years and every year I am fascinated once again by all the ideas of the exhibitors in order to stand out of the bulk of destinations and tourism companies – not an easy job with about 1200 fair booths. Additionally, for me and COMPASS as the organizer of the BEA, it is a new challenge every year to adapt the evaluation criteria to this permanently altering industry. And every year I am pleased anew about the fact that the winners ascribe the BEA such an importance and that for them it stands for a significant proof, that the exhibition performance at the ITB was successful.

Link for Trade Fair Benefit Check/AUMA: www.auma.de/en/TippsForExhibitors/TradeFairBenefitCheck/Seiten/Default.aspx.

Link for Best Exhibitor Award: www.cbs-bea.com

Author: Martina Leicher

I am Managing Director of COMPASS and studied Geography and Ethnology at the Universlty of Cologne and Urban Development at the University of Bonn. My consultancy focus lies in destination management and tourism marketing, as well as in research with concentration on tourism & peace and sustainibility. Contact: leicher@compass-cbs.de, tel. +49 (0)221 29062838

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