Best of the best: What your company can learn from world-class exhibitions

June 6, 2018

Expo 2020From trade shows to sports tournaments, a truly great event is an opportunity to learn.

So let’s look at three amazing events from last year and see how they did it – and what we can learn from them. Because whether we’re talking about the importance of pre-planning, or the use of technology, or incorporating a more eco-friendly approach, these events each managed to highlight an important guiding principle in event design that any company can use.

Let’s jump in.

Expo 2017: Eco done right

With Expo 2020 soon to arrive in Dubai, let’s cast our eyes back to the success of Expo 2017. Hosted in Kazakhstan in the newly constructed capital city of Astana, the ‘Future Energy’ themed expo was a dazzling display of global powers coming together to share their accomplishments in sustainability and CSR.

What can we learn from it?

Variety: Expo 2017 did a fantastic job in managing variety under one theme. Around 3.8 million people came to the expo. Making sure they visited as many pavilions as possible is challenging to say the least. A circular construction style for the range of pavilions made footfall smooth and fluid – a benefit for both attendees and staff who wouldn’t be able to manage a sudden rush.

A circular construction style for the range of pavilions made footfall smooth and fluid – a benefit for both attendees and staff who wouldn’t be able to manage a sudden rush.

Technology: Pavilions and stands used technology in particularly novel ways during Expo 2017. The UK pavilion used interactive technology to focus on innovation and discovery, asking visitors to consider how important advancements such as steam locomotion and electromagnetic radiation furthered the human race, before concluding on an eco-friendly future.

Sincerity: The subject of ‘greenwashing’ is always on people’s lips when considering a sustainability-based expo or trade show. Recent studies have shown that common objectives such as simple profit cause businesses to present themselves as sustainable on the surface, but to do little genuine work in that regard. A common example is to take a stand at an eco-related event or trade show and then to throw the stand away afterwards, rather than recycling or repurposing it.

The Astana event was closely scrutinised in this regard – Kazakhstan has itself long relied on sources of income such as oil. Happily, the newly constructed Expo area was fully designed as a ‘centre of excellence’ with which to guide Central Asia towards sustainability. Kazakhstan also built a recycling plant fuelled by green energy in 2017, giving credibility to their efforts in sustainability.

Participating countries also showed real eco-effort in their offerings, such as the algae-powered bio house exhibit provided by Germany.

The lesson here? Your events and exhibitions are being watched. It’s important that you fully match your preparation and efforts to the goal; if you are pretending to be ‘eco’, your brand might get caught out – not good for business.

Brand build: Expo 2017 is a powerful lesson on building brands and their images. Long a key aspect of event marketing, the potential to enhance our brands through emotionally charged events such as Expo 2017 is significant.

By fully committing to the principles of an event or expo, studies show that brands close the gap between their current brand perception and their target image. This benefit is at its strongest when the brand is ‘pre-aligned’ with the target image, just as Kazakhstan strived to be with its extensive eco-construction projects for and after the Expo 2017 event.

This subject is worth keeping in mind, particularly if your business is considering striking into new territory via events and trade shows.

The Big 5: Industries adapt

Boasting nearly 40 editions to date and now hosting 2,601 exhibitors over 110,000 sq.m of exhibition space, The Big 5 in Dubai is certainly a cornerstone of the construction industry – an industry that was worth 10.3% of the UAE’s GDP in 2017.

So what can we take away from The Big 5?

Adaptation: The construction industry is vital to the UAE, and international criticism in the past decade of the sustainability of the UAE and its construction projects has been significant. In 2018, the government has one simple message: improve sustainability in your projects or risk losing the UAE’s custom.

In 2018, the government has one simple message: improve sustainability in your projects or risk losing the UAE’s custom.

Adapting to this theme is more than a greenwash in the UAE. New construction requirements are significant to say the least; all projects going forward must meet strict basic criteria for sustainability and also present plans on how each project contributes to the environmental challenges faced by the UAE, such as those related to weather conditions and a booming population.

Corporate Social Responsibility: CSR is increasingly valuable in the UAE, and businesses are fast learning to invest in it to improve the quality of life for their community and workers – in addition to a little positive PR on the side.

We can learn from The Big 5 in this regard through the way the expo and its participants have adjusted according to this increased demand for CSR. The 2018 edition of the expo will be drastically different from those of previous years, with exhibits falling into new CSR-themed sections such as ‘The Big 5 Solar’, ‘Women in Construction’ and ‘The Innovation and Start-up Corner’.

Pre-planning: As you may imagine, these shifts in strategy performed by participating construction giants such as CAT are planned well in advance and often realised at a glacial pace. The learning point here lies in the identification of changes in future strategy made by governments and clients significant to our businesses.

Particularly in the arena of CSR and sustainability, the benefits of investing are greatest when significant work is undertaken behind the scenes and before events. Anything less and your involvement may risk being perceived as insincere.

Global Sources Mobile Electronics (GSME): Tech excellence

This event was special for the simple reason of growth. The mobile electronics market is vast; the global mobile entertainment sector alone is projected to reach USD 128bn in value by 2022. The GSME show hosted at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo has, in plain terms, skyrocketed by 80% since its 2014 debut.

Now hosting 2,800 booths, the GSME show caters to the ever-expanding electronics market, where VR, AR and mobile devices are currently pushing the cutting edge. But besides an interesting premise, what has caused such expansion and how can we learn from it?

Three key points stand out.

Guiding technology: As you might expect from a tech-oriented show, the GSME is itself making clever use of apps to guide attendees towards booths and areas most relevant to their interests, and to deliver after-event marketing. Among other features, the app provides daily reports and video feeds for desirable products.

This use of smart apps benefits both exhibitor and attendee and allows for the detailed collection of data. As we know, this data can be leveraged in both real time and in future to enhance the event in question and to inform the strategy for the next one.

Education: The second item of interest within the GSME show was its inclusion of a conference programme that was filled with retail experts and Amazon instructors.

GSME offered direct teaching to attendees on the best methods and practices with which to market their new products to an Asian audience, in addition to general teachings about online profitability. Further learning opportunities covered best practice on crowdfunding, digital marketing and exit strategy.

This is a clear example of shows taking clever initiative in enhancing their scope and impact. By educating attendees on how to market their newly purchased products more effectively, value is cleverly increased. The show is now value-added and will likely become a staple in many future calendars.

Interaction: While it is unsurprising for a cutting-edge tech show to contain a variety of enticing and modern experiences, the GSME seems to have maximised the benefit by effectively signposting and segmenting what is on offer.

Many of you may recall past events and shows you have attended where there was a dizzying range of interactive booths and opportunities to sample, all with little consideration given to guiding the attendee through them all. In the crafting of our events, it is vital that we avoid overloading the attendee with too much at once.

In the crafting of our events, it is vital that we avoid overloading the attendee with too much at once.

The GSME’s separation of offerings into clear areas such as product launch and gallery sections as well as different locations for conferences and experience zones is a great example of how to guide attendees through a complex event for their best benefit.

Diligence rewarded

We can always learn from other events, even if it is not aimed at our sector. The industry is massively varied but these learning points contain guiding principles that could prove useful in a variety of different contexts.

As the year moves on, I encourage you to look out for lessons like the ones I’ve highlighted in this article and ask yourself, ‘Does the context apply to my business and is there any other way I can exploit such knowledge?’

By viewing this learning process as continuous improvement, you can rest assured that your activities will benefit in time. A competitive edge indeed.

TGP is one of the Middle East’s leading design and production companies, focusing on exhibitions, events, interiors, graphics, and audio-visuals for various industries. For more information or to meet the team, please call +971 50 636 7774, send an email to hello@tgp.aeor click here.