Roadmap to tradeshows

Corporations spend thousands of dollars each year exhibiting at Gitex in the hopes of securing new business. Savvy tradeshow exhibitors know the tricks, however, for the novice, here is how the experts do it.

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By  Angela Sutherland Published  September 19, 2005

|~|General-BODY.jpg|~||~|Organising a trade show is akin to a socialite throwing a cocktail party. Success is contingent on understanding the purpose of the event, analysing the venue's functionality, considering the demographics of the target audience, paying attention to detail and providing opportunities for enjoyable and beneficial interaction among attendees.

There are two good reasons to participate in a tradeshow. The first is lead generation and the second is awareness. A tradeshow may be part of a corporation’s growth or awareness strategies to attract alliances, partners and potential buyers. Whatever the reason for participating, all tactical marketing efforts, including tradeshows, should consistently be maximised for greatest results and integrated into a corporation’s overall marketing and business strategies.

The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, better known as Gitex, will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. Despite being around for a quarter of a century, the tradeshow continues to witness strong growth. Each year Gitex attracts an increased number of delegates and exhibitors. This year will be no different as the show’s organiser and host, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), expects approximately 120,000 IT professionals to visit the five-day event. Those walking through the halls of the DWTC will have approximately 29,000 square metres to cover, and be able to see some 1100 exhibitors representing over 3000 companies.

“In order to meet the growing demand, we have decided to create an additional 3900 square metres of space,” says DWTC director general, Helal Saeed Khalfan Al Marri. While DWTC continues to come up with ways to house the hundreds of companies wishing to exhibit at the show, Gitex continues to have a huge impact on not only the IT industry but also on Dubai.

“The impact Gitex has on Dubai is huge, both in terms of the economy and the IT industry. In fact, Dubai pretty much becomes Gitex for the week — the hotels are full and flights to Dubai are all booked. Everyone benefits,” says Al Marri. “The reason why so many companies want to appear at the show is that it is a great way to start doing business in the region. If you look at the Middle East IT market today, you will see most of them started off in the region at Gitex.”

Most corporations in the Middle East have made it their priority to send their CIOs to Gitex, which means these executives will have to prepare for the event. Whether a tradeshow novice or a seasoned veteran, the harsh reality is that preparing well for such an event is hard work. CIOs and CEOs should not view Gitex as another chore that needs to be done but as an opportunity.

Corporations spend thousands of dollars each year exhibiting at Gitex in the hopes of gaining new customers and sales. Savvy tradeshow exhibitors know the tricks involved in making the event successful. However, for those just getting started, need to plan carefully in order to maximise their return-on-investment (ROI).

Tradeshows like Gitex are ideal to unveil IT products and solutions and make corporate announcements. Tier-one vendors know only too well the importance of such events. Take HP for instance; the vendor, which is paying special attention to the Middle East’s lucrative verticals like the telecommunications, finance and banking, oil& gas and healthcare, has made sure it has all the necessary tools to target customers from these sectors.

HP’s enterprise team will be on the ground at Gitex to showcase its solutions, methodologies, architectures, implementations and designs that customers can embrace as they undertake the journey towards becoming an adaptive enterprise. “The five-day event is an opportunity for us to meet with industry partners, as well as end users, and to discuss IT with organisations and individuals alike. HP is well positioned to showcase its enterprise solutions, services and consumer technology to these segments.

“We are confident Gitex 2005 will allow us to lock in on the right customers and provide them with the right solutions they are looking for,” says Joseph Hanania, managing director of HP Middle East. “As corporations embark on this journey they start seeing more efficiency, greater speed, better security and increased availability. Most importantly, it also allows enterprises to measure the reduction in cost that highlights the improving ROI,” he adds.

Corporations need to understand the IT environment they are dealing with and then explore the benefits of standardisation. This allows costs to be driven down and efficiency to be driven up. Once the standardisation has occurred, enterprises can then look at the benefits of modularisation and virtualisation.

Lenovo, the new global personal computing heavyweight, which completed its US$1.75 billion acquisition of IBM’s PC division in May 2004, is making it debut at this year’s Gitex. With an ambitious plan to secure a piece of the Middle East’s booming hardware market, Lenovo has high expectations from the event and has prepared accordingly.

“This year’s show is going to be one to remember. We have put a lot thought and resources for Gitex because it is important for us to get the maximum amount of exposure. Anyone who wants to know anything about Lenovo, its products and how we plan to bring new competition to the region’s PC market will be able to do so at Gitex 2005,” says Imtiaz Ghani, regional manager for Lenovo Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan.

“Lenovo will create market leading products, bring more service and support options and greater reach, ensuring new growth opportunities for our business partners and quality products for our customers in the region.”

Tradeshows are a showcase of knowledge. Everywhere the visitor looks, there are opportunities to learn about new products, industry trends and meet the movers and the 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.

Exhibitors should exploit these opportunities. The ‘power of platformisation’ is the catch phrase for Intel, which is geared up to exploit all available opportunities at this year’s event. “It has been clear for some time the convergence of computing and communications is having a profound effect on businesses, as well as the day-to-day life of individuals around the world,” says Samir Al Schamma, general manager of Intel GCC.

“Intel is the provider of a full set of technology ingredients such as microprocessors, chipsets, communications chips and base software capabilities, which work together as a platform to improve the way technology is used. Visitors to our stand will be able to experience for themselves how Intel’s unique vision for realising the ‘power of platformisation’ will enable them to benefit from digital convergence.”||**|||~|Crowd-BODY.jpg|~||~|Earlier this year Intel restructured its global operation around what the company defines as five major platforms: mobility, digital home, digital enterprise, digital healthcare and channel platforms, and it plans to use Gitex to promote these platforms. Intel says Gitex continues to attract key decision makers from around the region including government officials, consumers and educators.

As the Middle East’s leading IT event, it presents the chip giant with the perfect opportunity to showcase new technologies and meet with customers. “For me personally, 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,” enthuses Al-Schamma.

In its tenth year at Gitex, software development company, Focus Softnet, has decided this year’s participation should outdo that of previous years, spending a year preparing for it. The company likes launching products and making announcements at Gitex. It says visitors to the tradeshow are always looking for new products and partnerships. “Product launches and announcements help CIOs 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, CEO of Focus Softnet.

The Gitex veteran believes those participants who want to walk way from the tradeshow with positive outcomes need to prepare themselves well in advance. Hyder claims his organisation’s success with Gitex is knowing the goals and preparing itself accordingly. “If corporations prepare well, the rewards can be enormous. We have been participating in Gitex since 1996 and the response each year has been better than the previous years. Through Gitex, we are able to create awareness throughout the GCC and raise our profile not only in the UAE, but also in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. At least 8-10% of our annual total turnover is generated from Gitex each year,” states Hyder.

Gitex is a big event for Acer and has been for many years. Over the last three years, Acer's strategy was to use Gitex as a platform to showcase its full range of products and draw on its new strategy and go to market model.

“In the past customers waited for trade shows to see what is new. Today the internet and broadband have changed that as customers have easy access to information through the internet and direct contact with vendors. So when vendors take part in a trade show, they need to ensure the customer sees a value in coming to their stands,” says Philip Ashkar, director of sales and marketing at Acer. “Trade shows in the Middle East are still growing in size and we need to gain the customer's attention,” he adds.

First impressions are key. The exhibition booth makes a strong statement about an organisation. The booth tells visitors why they should stop, what is the differentiating factor and what benefits it can offer to clients. Make sure graphics are eye-catching, sending a key message with minimal words. Most attendees will not take the time to read a complicated signage. Booths should be attractive and inviting, encouraging people to stop in and see what is on offer. Do not put a table between your booth and the aisle. That says, “stay away”.

One of the most important factors in the success of tradeshows is booth staff. Send qualified, knowledgeable people to staff your booth who can comfortably speak with prospects, answer their questions and collect information about their interest in your products or services. Send your front line sales force, the engineers, product managers, marketing managers and the head of the company. Having your best at the booth tells the attendees that you are interested in meeting them and finding out what they want.

Oracle, which will be demonstrating how its e-business suite and the technology platform work at this year’s Gitex, understands the importance of first impressions. The vendor has ensured its best people are available to attend to tradeshow visitors.

“It is important for the participants to look after the visitors and Oracle will have the appropriate resources to ensure it provides the best services,” says Ayman Abouseif, GCC managing director of Oracle. “The company’s promise for the tradeshow — “Better Information for Better Business” — means that we will be together for hundreds of organisations in the region to make them more efficient, more competitive, and ultimately, more profitable,” he adds.

Consolidation is a continuing trend in the global technology sector and the exhibition provides an ideal platform for Oracle executives to articulate how the company’s recent global acquisitions will resonate on a regional level and benefit customers in the Middle East. To substantiate its claims around the benefits of its solutions, Oracle will host a number of successful customers at its exhibition space. End users from the telecommunications, logistics, financial and government sectors have committed themselves to speaking with customers about the specific benefits of Oracle-based infrastructures.

Organisations from the region will also make presentations about their success with Oracle’s Linux-based solutions and the advantages they have witnessed as a result of deploying the company’s software. Visitors to the Oracle World arena will also witness demonstrations of the latest Oracle Collaboration Suite, which manages all business communications including e-mail, voicemail, fax, calendaring and file management.

Having overseen more than US$2 billion in business transactions over its five-year history, Tejari is set to boost its current portfolio of online procurement services and solutions through the launch of its tender management service for large government tenders and with the introduction of its strategic procurement services and tools. These and other new solutions are the foundations of Tejari’s strategy to attract decision-makers during Gitex. Tejari has prepared itself to use the exhibition to display its latest advances in electronic tender management, a new service that will enable Tejari’s trading partners to manage large, complex, mostly governmental tenders centrally through the online marketplace.

Also during Gitex 2005, Tejari will conduct live demonstrations of its new supplier relationship management solutions. As an extension of the company’s recently launched Strategic Procurement Services Group, companies can view a range of tools for vendor performance appraisals, spend analysis and data cleansing.

“The electronic tender management gives Tejari greater depth by tying together all the materials needed for major infrastructure projects and centralising the procurement for these complex undertakings. For organisations that have already adopted online procurement, supplier relationship management is the next step to ensure you are realising the full value of dealing with your partners electronically,” says Saqib Iqbal, COO of Tejari.

A Tejari tradition during the event is to commend a number of its existing trading partners based on their level of online procurement activity throughout the year. These awards are likely to be presented to members from both the public and private sectors based on factors including the number and size of the auctions and tenders they have launched. In addition, Tejari will host representatives from its regional offices, including Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait and Lebanon, to strengthen ties in the regional business community.

Tradeshow visitors are there to solve problems and simplify purchasing decisions, so take advantage of all those qualified prospects stopping by your booth. Although many vendors attend shows primarily to gather leads, which are often the icing on the cake. Lead collecting is an important tradeshow activity, but do not make it the only one. When vendors do find promising prospects, they should follow up promptly. Contacts are worth nothing if they do not become customers.||**||

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