By Daniel Canty
With the intense heat of summer behind us for 2007, barely have the temperatures dropped before another season is well and truly upon us.
With the intense heat of summer behind us for 2007, barely have the temperatures dropped before another season is well and truly upon us. That's right, it's Showtime. From right across the Middle East, Asia and Africa SFME readers will be bombarded with requests and invitations to attend an overwhelming number of trade shows, exhibitions and conferences.
With each year that passes the vast number of events seems to double, and deciding how beneficial attendance is, weighed against the numerous costs has become a decision every executive in the industry is faced with more and more. That cost is increasingly being measured not just in fiscal terms, but also as the time spent out of the office, and out of touch with existing customers. That's not to say spiralling hotel costs across the region are to be sniffed at though. In many ways the events are expensive.
Many regular attendees at the multitude of events thrown within the Middle East often say that the shows themselves don't generate much business, but attend because they would be conspicuous by their absence. This may partly be due to the fact that the combined total of all of the shipping, ports and logistics related events means each is diluted by the presence of another which may fit the diary more conveniently.
However, come the closing ceremony, or exhibition dinner, the mood usually seems to be more chipper all round. Talk of orders being placed, sales leads generated, and almost without fail "relationship building" often dominates the topic of conversation.
Naturally, there will be shows that are better organised, better advertised and most importantly better attended than others, and this will have a bearing on that post-exhibition glow. The attitude heading into an exhibition might be just as important. It's easy to skip forward to the late nights leading up to - and often during the events, the sore feet and being attacked with a barrage of promotional materials from brochures to branded cuddly toys. But beyond the hype and the effort, and the pre-show dread, most people still come to the conclusion that attendance is an important, if not vital cornerstone to their marketing strategies.
Taking the leading events as an example, show organisation in the Middle East has improved without question. This year's FIATA World Congress, one of the first of the Showtime Season, gave participants the opportunity to pre-book one to one meetings with any other company or delegate present. Not surprisingly, come the last day most delegates had found these private sessions productive and informative and said they were in fact a highlight of the show. The opportunity to target your networking around more than the coffee sessions meant very few visitors felt they had missed any important opportunities.
It's firmly time to shake off with vigour the summer cobwebs and thrust yourself (and your staff), whole-heartedly into Showtime. It's easy to complain, but so much worse to feel you've missed the boat.