I am probably one of the worst type of visitor when it comes to trade shows.

It struck me the other day that I have limited or no contact with the exhibitors whenever I visit a trade show. If I had to put a figure on it – 95% of the time I have absolutely no interest in talking to the exhibitors.

I am a self-confessed ‘zero lead visitor’ and that is an organiser’s nightmare.

What does a zero lead visitor do at trade shows?

  • Firstly, we don’t talk to exhibitors, obvs.
  • We exploit the free content on offer and watch the keynote speakers.
  • We drain the CPA (visprom) marketing budget and click the banners to register.
  • We wear down the carpet and use the networking furniture for our own meetings.
  • We take advantage of the shelter, light, heat and hospitality of exhibition halls up and down the country.

The majority of us are well hidden in the crowd. Masters of disguise. Avoiders of contact.  Middle aisle walkers blending in like f***ing Jason Bourne. Stealth. Skill. Art. It’s fox-like cunning.

You can’t spot us but occasionally the amateurs/mavericks in the ranks break cover and that’s where the clothes get a bit trampy and the trolley bags start getting filled with exhibition swag.

In my defence I am having meetings with organisers and suppliers and clients so I am not a pure play zero lead visitor.

Pure play zero lead visitors operate within the sector that the exhibition serves and completely drain it of its resources.

Their attendance is at the cost of the organiser and ultimately, I guess, the exhibitor.

You see, when you strip a trade show back to its core, it’s the transactions between the exhibitor and the visitor that allow it to live and breathe and grow.

Don’t get sucked in by the batch and blast marketing hyperbole of content, thought leadership and education. It comes down to leads. It is a sales-based, transactional monster – and a bloody good one at that.

No exhibitor leads = exhibition death.

The reality is that any exhibition will have a spectrum of visitors ranging from the socially advocating fanboys and girls with big budgets right through to the freeloading filth buckets – visitors selling in the aisle.

You see, zero lead visitors are not the worst after all!

Ultimately it is down to the organiser to use their skill and insight to skew the visitor profile to the top end of the scale to drive the leads but what value does a zero lead visitor bring and should they be treated differently?

Don’t get it twisted – zero lead visitors do bring a value to an exhibition even if it can’t be monetised. They fill an aisle. They add to the noise environment. They give the organisers reassurance and physical evidence that the show is OK. But deep down they are just Room Meat™.(In The Loop)

Woody Allen famously said 90% of life as whole is showing up and aren’t we grateful when the visitors show up!

But I’m starting to think we need the visitor to do more than show up.

Imagine a show that tracked 100% of the leads on the show floor and in return for the hospitality, the content, the free wifi you could grade individual visitor performance on a lead gen basis.

What would you do as an organiser?

No lead enquiries? Yellow card.

No lead enquiries? Pay to attend.

No lead enquiries? Take part in this research.

No lead enquiries? Don’t bother coming next year.

Naturally you wouldn’t want to manufacture lead exchange but beyond the valuable time that a visitor sacrifices/offers, there must be a compelling reason and pay off to visit an exhibition.

Especially, as in the case of the zero lead visitor, they hold a negative balance with the sentiment and finances of an exhibition.

The thing is, in this game, the visitor analysis comes down to one metric – the quantum attendance.

The total visitor attendance of an exhibition is the one figure that continues to dictate this industry.

But for how long?

Talking to successful organisers it seems to me that new launches are far more interested in smaller niche shows, higher margins, lower visitor attendance, through the roof exhibitor satisfaction and the big one … higher lead exchange.

So maybe this is happening already.

If so, just remember – I’m the zero lead exception!

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Exhibitor Smarts is a specialist exhibitor agency working alongside organisers and suppliers to maximise exhibitor revenue and performance.

We also work directly with exhibitors saving more than 30% off their investments.


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