Trade shows 2023

Trade shows 2023

Landscapers, turf professionals and suppliers are busy setting their schedules for 2023.  Is there time to fit in a trade show, too? Maggie Walsh discovers why putting at least one trade event in the diary can be beneficial

And to find out what the Trade Show organisers think of the event scene read here

Trade shows offer unique opportunities for both exhibitors and attendees to gather under one roof. It’s a chance for businesses to help their growth – whether as an exhibitor finding leads to sell the latest products or as a visitor looking for essential tools of the trade.

Before Covid shows were very much part of the landscaper’s calendar of events. But the pandemic changed the exhibition landscape somewhat. Zoom took centre stage as some exhibition organisers attempted remote networking, while other savvy businesses utilised social media, such as You Tube to showcase their products.

But most across the industry agree that there is nothing better than meeting face to face and welcomed the news when in person events were back on. According to a survey undertaken in 2022 by exhibition supplier, Display Wizard, 95% of those interviewed (across all industries) said they preferred in-person events despite the growth of virtual events during the pandemic.

Vicky Panniers organiser of SAGE (Sports & Grounds Expo) which takes place in July agrees, saying:  “Since Covid, we have seen a large shift in exhibitor and visitor expectations. People are looking for a more interactive, immersive experience.  This is why we have such an emphasis on ‘try before you buy’ – we know visitors are not just there to buy products, as this is something they can easily do online!”

“We offer a hands-on demo experience that can’t be achieved with online shopping or at other indoor trade shows. For exhibitors, this helps to generate sales and increase their brand exposure.”

It takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale without an exhibition lead, and only 3.5 sales calls to close a lead from an exhibition – basically face to face closes a sale quicker.  But what are the expectations from visitors and exhibitors? Are they fussed whether it is an indoor event or outdoor event, as long as a deal can be made?

One of the oldest events within the landscaping sector SALTEX (run by he Grounds Management Association, GMA) was traditionally an outdoor event held every summer in Windsor,  but made the move to the indoor arena at NEC, Birmingham in 2015. “The move allowed SALTEX to be more accessible for numerous reasons, most especially the central UK location and ensured the show did not have to rely on the unpredictable British weather,” explains Geoff Webb, CEO of the GMA.

There is always going to be someone not satisfied with a show format but SALTEX, celebrating its 77th year this November,  has evolved and adapted over the seven-plus decades. “Exhibitions, by their very nature, have cycles and continually must focus on the delivery of the event but always look to the future as well,” says Geoff.

Research from GroundsFest, a new show within the sector launching for the first time at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire this September suggests it is outdoor demonstration opportunities that lure people to these events.

Bringing a mix of indoor space and outdoor demonstration areas to Stoneleigh, Warwickshire in September,  Event director Chris Bassett says:   “The motivation behind launching GroundsFest was based on extensive research and independent surveys.  The results show that September is the most favoured time of year and that a mix of both indoor space and outdoor demonstrations is the preferred format.

“ As well as seeing products in action and trying them out for themselves, there is going to be some great hands-on, interactive features, at GroundsFest.  For example, there will be live working stations where visitors can find out the latest trial data and many more. There will be a service workshop where a leading expert will be on hand to tell you how to maintain and get the best out of your equipment.

GroundsFest also promises to offer workstations which are designed to, “enhance an individual’s knowledge and skillset”.

Indeed seminars and workshops are very much part of all of the industry exhibitions, as they expose people to new ways of thinking, which in turn can better support their clients and customers as they help create ideas of new ways to achieve business success.  BTME – the show for greenkeepers and those working within the golf and turf industry, takes the seminars one step further with their Continue to Learn events just prior to its two day show every January in Harrogate.

“With hundreds of hours of education and attendees from every level of golfing and sporting facility, it has been estimated that Continue to Learn generates more than two hours of learning for every golf club in the United Kingdom,” says Karl Hansell Head of Marketing and Communications at British and International Greenkeepers Association who runs the BTME.

“Key to the success of the programme is that while it provides practical skills and education, the programme has evolved to meet all the needs of modern turf professionals. There are elements relating to all aspects of team and golf course management, such as budgeting, leadership, mental health and countless other topics.

“These skills are widely transferable, not just to grounds managers in other sports but also anyone working within the industry who has an interest in developing their abilities and making golf clubs, sports facilities and other venues positive and thriving places to work.”

Jeremy Storey-Walker, Event Director at LANDSCAPE, another indoor at the NEC aimed at landscape architects, local government, garden designers and landscapers concurs that learning opportunities are key to such events.

“Trade shows are the life blood of any industry, they provide huge learning opportunities and face to face opportunities to engage with peer groups,” he says. But, he adds, that visitors are also “on the look out for new suppliers, new products and new ways to do things.

“From an exhibitor’s point of view, current clients are always looking for the ‘next new thing. Manufacturers should make sure they are in front of them as many times as possible in order react to their needs and pick up that business.

“Visitors too, should make every effort to attend and engage with new exhibitors especially and see what they have to offer.  An event is only great when we all pull together to make it a success and help move this amazing industry forward!”

Make the most on your visit to a trade show:

  1. Plan ahead and decide what is the purpose of your visit. Is it for inspiration, to see the latest products or to seek latest tips in industry. 
  2. Book seminars in advance and create a list of exhibitors you want to see.
  3. Utilise your social media profiles to let people know you are attending and ask if anyone would like to catch up at the event.
  4. Maximise your networking opportunity by booking in meetings with people exhibiting or attending before you go.
  5. Collect contact details of anyone you met who you would like to connect with after the show and note down what you spoke about and possible opportunities.
  6. Follow up on every conversation and connection made in a timely fashion. 
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