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Expectation vs. reality in the business event world

We recently joined a well-known trade show with a very compelling proposition, but left very disappointed.

The price of admission was no more than a decent dinner, so the expectations were not high. But we were saddened to see the much-promoted conference programme that came with the price of admission was nothing more than an open space with scattered seating and hard-to-hear presentations mostly delivered by vendors.

Should we have been surprised given what we were charged?

On the one hand the "conference" could be seen as great value for money. Three days worth of insights for a fraction of the cost of a "traditional" conference.

But it could easily have been so much more. With a curated best-practice-focused agenda as well as a more conducive physical environment, the conference could deliver far greater impact for participants, in the process raising the overall impression of the event.

We’d also argue people would pay more for a higher quality conference programme. Since they are likely going to the event anyway, as many such trade show are "must-attends" for their given industry, why not capture additional incremental income that a better conference would command?

Of course, it all comes back to what defines a Trade Show: it's first and foremost an exhibition where buyers can view sellers’ wares; the conference programmes are often just an afterthought. Subsequently they're treated as a "poor cousin".

So what’s the solution?

A good conference needs a professional producer who understands how to research a compelling programme and field credible presenters with first-hand experience, and it needs to be staged in a venue that allows for undisturbed information-sharing and interaction.

We believe trade shows and conferences both present opportunities, just in very different ways. This means the strategies around each need to be, out of necessity, different. Essentially it’s two different “events”, for the same audience, that just so happen to be co-located. Importantly though, they don’t compete. They compliment. And done right you can achieve 1+1=3.

This means we can do away with disappointment from misaligned expectations, and the wastage of time and attention. A true conference should be a place where ideas are exchanged and new ways of working developed. To achieve that it needs, at a minimum, a quality programme and the right environment.

– Team UC

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