CEIR’s announcement that growth in the tradeshow industry slowed in the fourth quarter of last year arrived on the second day of the Exhibitor Show, the tradeshow devoted to displaying products for tradeshow exhibitors.
If there is some kind of slowdown underway, you couldn’t tell it by the gathering at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Show officials say it was the best show, numbers-wise, since 2006: 67,000 square feet (up 13.5 percent from last year), 5,600 attendees (up 8 percent) and 296 exhibitors.
Traffic on the floor looked heavy to me all three days, while anecdotal evidence provided by a handful of session speakers I talked to indicated attendance at the sessions was down. All that tells me is people at Exhibitor were more interested in buying things than they were in learning.
The showfloor ran the usual gamut of everything from massive exhibit booth displays (including one 20x20 from The Shop @ ShowReady that was on a giant turntable) to the ubiquitous monogrammed coffee mugs. What interested me were a couple of exhibitors that had people saying, “Huh?”
Some of the exhibitors who this year are eliciting those responses are introducing products and services which could be the “disrupters” that eventually put traditional show service providers into a state of red alert.
One of them, Tradeshow Internet, offers exhibitors a way to get their showfloor WiFi access on their own, bypassing whatever Internet provider has the exclusive contract to supply it at that particular venue. Not only that, CEO Ian Framson has a long explanation of how WiFi exclusives defy FCC regulations and says his company can help exhibitors wrangle their way out of those deals.
Meanwhile, over at TabbleDabble, Ravin Shah was demonstrating his new product at not only his first Exhibitor Show, but his first tradeshow ever. It’s a lead retrieval system that bypasses a show’s registration and lead retrieval system by using a tablet and a QR code. According to Shah, instead of paying the show’s registration vendor whatever it is they charge you for their service, the cost is 10 cents a lead—as long as you provide your own iPad.
I have a feeling these weren’t the only two potential disruptors at the Exhibitor Show and, for all I know, they may not go anywhere in terms of capturing the imagination of the exhibitor side of the business. But if they do, they definitely stand a chance to turn some portions of the industry on their heads.
And even if TabbleDabble or Tradeshow Internet are not back at Exhibitor next year, more just like them will be.
Michael Hart is executive editor of Expo Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.