Tradeshow tricks

Tradeshows such as Gitex are awash with vendors looking to sell goods to customers. CIOs can get sidetracked among the hype and stands, but with careful planning and the right tactics, Gitex can be a useful opportunity to catch up with market trends, discover new technology partners and meet all the major players under one roof.

  • E-Mail
By  Angela Prasad Published  October 1, 2004

|~|Husam-Best-Photo-tradeshow-.gif|~|Husam Dajani, vice president of Oracle MENA. |~|When he attends tradeshows, Steve McNeely, chief executive officer of HQ Global, walks the aisles, collects marketing materials from the firm’s competitors and listens to the latest industry buzz. McNeely attends between five to 10 shows a year and he is not alone. A survey conducted in 2000 by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) found that, for the foreseeable future, 38% of CIOs say they will attend more than five exhibitions per year. 53% say they will attend three to five tradeshows annually. Most corporations in the Middle East have made it a priority to send their CIOs to the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, better known as Gitex. Which means CIOs cannot put their heads in the sand and ignore what is going on around them. They have to prepare for such events. Whether a tradeshow novice or a veteran, the harsh reality is that preparing well for such an exhibition is hard work. CIOs and IT managers should not see tradeshows as another chore that needs to be done, but as an opportunity. Gitex will attract 100,000 visitors this year as attendance is set to boom by 35%. At the same time, the number of vendors represented at the show has risen from 775 in 2003 to 850 in 2004, which means it will be chaotic and visitors could get lost. However, with careful planning, CIOs and IT managers can come out of the five-day event as winners. “Every year just before Gitex I take out my requirements list and my wish list that I have prepared over several months. I look after the IT [requirements] of five companies so there is always the scope to look for new products that can be used at any of these companies. I draw up a plan to visit stalls that will cater to my needs,” says Domnick Almeida, IT manager at Disney. “The second step of my preparation is that I read about each exhibitor and see what they have to offer. If it interests me, I add it to my list and make time to visit them at Gitex,” he says. IT managers are not the only ones who are preparing for Gitex. Vendors are also doing their share of preparation. Intel for example, is flying in regional and international staff for the event. The vendor wants to make sure that it has enough expertise and resources available during the five-day event. “Gitex is a big event in the Middle East and preparation is crucial. Visitors have to be organised and prepared so they can take advantage of the event. As for our part, we have organised a team that will help tradeshow visitors understand our products and services. "We have tried to get a mixture of regional expertise and international know-how, where our colleagues who work on other international exhibitions such as CeBit are supporting us with ideas, materials and logistics. We would like IT managers to talk to these professionals and ask any questions they may have in regard to our technology. We are there to help,” says Samir Al-Schamma, general manager for Intel in the GCC. “It is one of those events where we prepare ourselves to meet our customers from all around the region face-to-face. We tell them about Intel’s new initiatives and listen to what they have to tell us about their markets and how they think we can work together to supply the technology solutions that are in demand,” he adds. Gitex veteran Amjad Rahhal, chief operations officer at STS, who has been attending the show since 1988, has advice for those IT managers who are attending the show for the first time. “The advice I can give to my colleagues is that they should plan their schedule well ahead of time. These are big events with so many halls to visit and it can get a bit hectic, so IT managers should do more research on participants along with their offerings, location and presentations and then plan their visit, ”explains Rahhal. Gitex is crucial for STS on two levels. First, the company wants to raise awareness of its new name. Previously it was known as BusinessOne. Secondly, it wants to secure customers in the banking telecommunications and government sectors. “We have spent a lot of time preparing for this. Our approach is to send invitations to all prospective customers and have conferences based on products/market sectors, followed by one-on-one meetings,” says Rahhal. Oracle is another company that is keen to help tradeshow visitors exploit every possible opportunity and it has prepared accordingly. However, the vendor wants IT managers to be prepared as well. According to Oracle, IT managers should know what products they want from this tradeshow and should target the manufacturers accordingly. Oracle has made sure its 40 regional partners are exhibiting at the show and its independent software vendors (ISVs) are also present to explain their technologies to visitors. “We will conduct over 90 seminars to make sure IT managers get the chance to understand our applications and technology,” says Husam Dajani, vice president of Oracle MENA region. ||**|||~|Joseph-Hanania-#2-tradeshow.gif|~|Joseph Hanania, managing director at HP Middle East. |~|Focus Softnet has also spent the past year in preparing for the tradeshow, as it likes launch products and make announcements at Gitex. It says visitors to the tradeshow are always looking for new products and partnerships. “Product launches and announcements help IT managers in their decision making process. They are able to see what is available in the market place for either their existing projects or new ones. Gitex is a big event and visitors from all over the region are gathered under one roof and we try our best to help them,” says Ali Hyder, executive vice president of Focus. Prima Java’s Lavesh Samtani shares Ali’s sentiments. If a company has a new product to sell, Gitex can be a great launch pad. With some of industry’s brightest stars in attendance, the product may get the exposure it needs to take off. “Tradeshows are always a great platform to launch products. This year our company will be spreading knowledge of the world’s first autonomic operating systems called Nitix,” says Samtani. “Also, I believe that CIOs should be clear about their value proposition when talking to IT managers as this will help these managers in their decision making. Tradeshow visitors are well informed about the latest technologies available in the market place and vendors should be able to deliver on the needs of their customers,” he adds. Tradeshows are a showcase of knowledge. Everywhere the visitor looks, there are opportunities to learn about new products and industry trends and meet the movers and shakers in the IT industry. It is also a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with existing customers. In only a few days, tradeshows allow visitors to make more calls on a more personal level than under normal circumstances. Also, companies should offer their customers a special pre-show promotion or some other incentive to get them to the show and onto their stand. “The five-day event is an opportunity for us to meet with top industry partners, as well as consumers and to discuss IT with organisations and individuals alike. HP is well positioned to showcase its enterprise innovations, services and consumer technology to these segments,” says Joseph Hanania, managing director at HP Middle East. “We are confident Gitex 2004 will allow us to lock in on the right customers and provide them with the solutions they are looking for,” he adds. “Tradeshows like Gitex are a good platform from which to launch new products and announce company policy changes as it immediately reaches to all the interested parties. Vendors should keep such events planned for Gitex to get the maximum impact,” says Focus’s Hyder. Nic Bilenkij, IT manager for Jumeirah Beach Hotels, says Gitex is a good place to look for the latest products and services in the hospitality industry. Bilenkij spends his time at the tradeshow looking for products for the hotel’s new IT projects and at times finds it difficult to visit all the halls that have relevant products. Bilenkij says in order to exploit all the opportunities available at Gitex vendors should be a bit more proactive. “For example, if a vendor has hospitality products and wants to sell them at the tradeshow, it should send invitations to customers to visit its hall well before the show. I have received a couple of invitations, but it would be good to get some more,” Bilenkij says. Disney says Gitex offers great opportunities and if visitors are organised, they can exploit it completely. For example, during last year’s event, the company was setting up a new company at Dubai Media City (DMC). By attending the show, Disney was able to get all its high end graphic workstations, printers and scanners at the show. “We benefited tremendously at last year’s Gitex. We were able to choose products from different vendors. We even ended up being the first company in the UAE to order HP’s then high end colour laser printer. Most of the requirements for the new company were decided at the Gitex tradeshow. We just placed the orders after the show,” says Almeida. Furthermore, vendors can also help IT managers take advantage of the tradeshow. There is no doubt that thousands of people pass through their halls over the five-day show and it is not easy to attend to every visitor’s questions. However, what they can do is focus on their core products that are on display and have trained staff to answer visitor queries. “Instead of just handing out bags of goodies, they should pay more attention to visitor interest in their products. They need to be patient and treat every visitor like he or she is the first one to visit their hall,” Almeida adds. Gitex represents a big investment both in terms of resources and time. Yet many vendors walk away thinking it is over before the real work — following up on leads — has even begun. The Tradeshow Bureau says over 80% of exhibitors never follow up after a show closes. If vendors fail to use tradeshow leads after the show has closed, they are missing the whole point of going in the first place. “Follow up is crucial and although it seems to be a [logical] thing to do, we have a habit of not doing it for some reason. Last year, I was looking for a hosting plan and I never managed to get a response from any vendor that was exhibiting at Gitex. Finally, I ended up working with a vendor that I never met at Gitex,” says Almeida. Many tradeshow visitors are there to solve problems and simplify purchasing decisions, so vendors should take advantage of all the qualified prospects stopping by their booth. Although many vendors attend shows primarily to gather leads, leads are often the icing on the cake. Lead collecting is an important tradeshow activity, but not only one. When vendors do find promising prospects, they should follow up promptly. Contacts are worth nothing if they do not become customers, so exhibitors should have a system for responding to inquiries while their business is still fresh in the prospect’s mind. Finally, monitor the follow-up process for at least two months. Pursue every potential sale. In measuring your company’s return on investment (ROI) from Gitex, always remember that two-thirds of all sales will not be achieved until 11 to 24 months after the show. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code