"What you see is what you get". As a marketer, I'm convinced that this saying is especially true with regard to exhibitor behavior at both public and industry trade shows.
You can tell immediately which companies put obvious time and effort into preparing their exhibits. You can see as the staff interacts with visitors which companies have a positive attitude toward the show and their (potential) customers. The staff is welcoming. They act interested. They take time to ask questions and to provide answers.
The flip-side of the "what-you-see" truism is, "What you don't see is also what you get". This refers to all those exhibitors who, toward the end of the show, just have to get a head start on tear-down and be the first out the door.
When an exhibitor leaves early, they are still showing — but what?
Most show managers discourage, and in some cases prohibit, leaving early. There are often severe penalties for breaking this part of the exhibitor agreement (loss of priority points, poor location for future shows). Yet there are always a few exhibitors who think the rules were written for everyone else.
I've heard every excuse imaginable for early tear-down — from sickness to impending weather problems to a sudden death in the family. (One poor fellow had to go to his mother's funeral — two years in a row!). The list is as long as your imagination.
Unfortunately, exhibitors who tear down early don't realize whom they are hurting most — themselves!
Safety factors aside, to neighboring exhibitors, show visitors, and show management, tearing down early is usually just an annoyance that will soon vanish. But these exhibitors run the risk of doing serious long-term harm to their companies. They are not only missing sales on the show floor, but also future sales from missed contacts with potential customers.
Research has shown that 30% of all show floor sales are consummated during the final two hours of exhibit time. Many buyers use the first segments of a show to preview products and develop specifications for purchases. The actual purchase is made at the end of the show.
I know a dental supply company representative who wrote an order equaling six months of her sales quota in the last ten minutes of a show! I've also seen visitors walk away angry when they return to a particular booth to do business only to learn that the exhibitor has "left early".
It is difficult to understand why a company would spend money for show space, an exhibit, staff travel and lodging expenses to come to an event where clients and potential clients pay to visit them — and then leave potential dollars for the competition! It's like pouring money down the drain!
So next time you are tempted to leave a show early, remember that "Good things come to those who wait". Patience and perseverance are as necessary to success as an exciting booth and well-trained staff. Waiting (and working) for every customer and sale at a trade show is what separates winners (who care about their customers) from losers who give them the bum's rush.