Cover Story

Time to add more spice to shows

Updated: 2011-09-23 08:35

By Delphine Lignieres (China Daily)

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Trade show organizers need to take a fresh look at how they cater to those who attend

Smart brands know that they need to engage today's Chinese consumers, not simply sell to them. Yet when I visit many of the business-to-consumer exhibitions happening in China nowadays, I often feel they are no more than temporary venues to sell products.

This may be a result of the disproportionate amount of business-to-business exhibitions in China since the nation shifted to a market-oriented economy three decades ago. In the early years after that shift, economic development was all about investment, manufacturing and industrial production, and so it made sense that B2B shows dominated the exhibition landscape.

Now, along with a rise in overall affluence, China is transforming into a consumption-driven market. As a result, more and more business-to-consumer events are taking place. These events require an approach that greatly differs from the strategies used in organizing B2B trade shows.

One way to make exhibitions more than mere sales venues is to present not only exhibitor products, but also the lifestyle that each class of product represents. The possibilities for doing this are limited only by human imagination.

For example, at the Hainan Rendez-Vous, an event that my company organizes each spring in Sanya, we present much more than a yacht show with dozens of gorgeous yachts and super yachts. The venue itself, a lovely marina (Visun Royal Yacht Club) in a beautiful resort city, was chosen precisely because it offers a taste of the yacht owner's lifestyle with its pristine waters, fresh ocean air and pure white beaches.

Throughout the four days of the event, we hold various parties, soirees, networking activities and educational programs, all designed to allow visitors to interact with yacht exhibitors and experience the yacht owner's way of life. The relaxed, open environment created greatly facilitates conversation between potential buyers and sellers.

Another way to make exhibitions more than mere sales venues is to capitalize on synergies between show sponsors, exhibitors and visitors. For example, the concept of "rendez-vous" that we launched in China is more than just a yacht show. It is in fact four separate shows in one: a yacht show, a corporate jet exhibition, a luxury property collection and a luxury brands showcase.

You can imagine how easily excitement and buzz emerge in such an environment. New interests are ignited through conversations between people of different backgrounds. News about what is happening in one section of the show becomes of great interest in other sections. Did 250 VIP visitors really get flown to the show on private jets to meet with the business jet exhibitors? (Yes, it really happened.) Is there actually a 61-meter long yacht at the show? (Yes, there truly was.) Were there really 4,000 visitors at the show on a particular day? (Probably; the show attracted 15,000 visitors in total from all parts of China.)

You might at first think such a diverse show would lack focus, but in fact it is precisely our mix of different industries that attracts Hainan Rendez-Vous' exhibitors and sponsors and makes the show atmosphere rich and interesting. We are actually planning to add even more diversity to the show mix next year, keeping in mind of course that whatever we bring in needs to have natural synergy with our current offerings.

The affluent high net worth individuals who come to Hainan Rendez-Vous are as sophisticated as their Western counterparts, but many still have not had the same lifestyle opportunities available to them - the experience of owning one's own yacht, the utility of flying on board a business jet.

As the organizer of the event, I feel it is my company's duty to communicate these lifestyle possibilities in all their beauty to our show guests.

Visitors of other business-to-consumer exhibitions may not have the same level of sophistication as the financial elite who come to the Hainan Rendez-Vous. But the transformation of China's economy that is now taking place is accompanied by transformations in the nature of consumers on all levels. Exhibition organizers need to respond to these changes by designing their events in accordance with consumers' evolving profiles and needs.

The author is founder and CEO of China Rendez-Vous Ltd, a company that organizes events targeting China's upscale consumers.

(China Daily 09/23/2011 page7)


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