Sinclairity, the blog of Sinclair & Co.

The trade show scene – quantity vs. quality

I recently returned from an industry trade show, The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS). I’ve been to this show many times in the past 15 years, supporting various clients and meeting up with editors, media reps and new contacts.

The show hasn’t changed all that much over the years – lots of very smart people talking about cutting-edge drug development and manufacturing processes, students looking for a big career break, companies big and small talking about their capabilities, new equipment and building expansions.

I’m a true believer in integrated marketing – using a range of tactics to communicate with your audience and meet your goals. But I also acknowledge that tactics have a way of cycling through. Whether they are effective or not tends to change over time.

So what about the industry trade show? Where it is in that cycle?

This year at AAPS, we definitely saw a smaller representation of companies in the exhibit hall. Companies had a smaller presence – firms who previously had HUGE booths in the 40×40+ range had downsized to 20×20 or even 10×20. Companies had fewer giveaways and contests. And some firms who had a decent-sized presence in past years weren’t exhibiting at all.

But on the flip side, some firms with smaller booths added more value to their presence. They had special events at their booths, offered premium food and beverage during cocktail hour (which, FYI, begins at 3 p.m. in trade-show land) and some even hired entertainment (break dancers!)

Break dancers at AAPS!

A video posted by Sinclair & Co. (@sinclair_co) on

Many people wondered aloud to me if it was worth it to come to the show and exhibit. Does spending all that money really result in a more prosperous bottom line? Do you get new clients? Close deals? The discussion was especially relevant because the number of attendees was down, as well. With fewer attendees and exhibitors, how could this be a good expenditure in a tight budget year?

But then something happened. The networking began. Hands started shaking, business cards were exchanged, the buzz of conversation took over the exhibit hall.

By my last day at the show, I’d talked to a LOT of folks. And we all agreed that even though the quantity seemed to be down – from the number of attendees to the number and size of the exhibitors – the quality of the show was still up where it needed to be. Yes, meetings were had, deals struck and connections made.

So, as an integrated marketing tactic, the industry trade show – at least this one – is still a viable option. While many hope that future years will see attendance climb back up, no one seemed willing to skip it entirely. And even if their presence will be on a smaller scale, everyone I talked to planned to return.

So if you’re in the contract pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry, I guess I’ll see you next year at AAPS!