More than 4200 companies from over 70 countries, 339,000 visitors from 90 countries, 5000 journalists, 45 hours of tradeshow exhibits, and 20 open halls – that was CeBIT 2011! Soon Hannover will be gearing up for the 2012 mega-event. The Hannover trade area can certainly handle the crowds. It’s pretty impressive – a city within a city, with its own bus lines, railway station, catering service and hard-to-find hotel rooms, especially during CeBIT. It’s so big and so important that many companies time their product launches and special offers specifically for CeBIT. The question is: can small and midsized businesses get noticed alongside giants like Google, IBM, Comarch, Kaspersky and Microsoft?
These numbers are the facts, but there are a lot of unknowns to consider like: how many free gadgets (pendrives, lanyards, pens, eco bags) are distributed during “the world’s largest and most international computer expo”; or how many visitors are actually convinced by hostesses in bikinis or robots playing football (and do they become loyal customers); or how many trees must be cut down to produce thousands of leaflets, brochures, catalogs etc.; finally, on top of the cost of booth space, how much for all the billboards and banners ad in the CeBIT area? And what about the show guides?
How many SMB companies can afford all the necessities, let alone the decorations, promotions and giveaways? And more importantly, does frippery really attract business partners or only the curious? Especially if you’re NOT Kaspersky or Google.
Enough questions, let’s get to the point.
First of all, ask yourself if you really need your own booth. Every exhibitor knows that the days when standing in the aisle and smiling to attract clients are gone. But tradeshow booths are expensive, time-consuming to manage and coordinate logistically, and having one does not guarantee new business. So is there a less costly way to conquer CeBIT? Consider this: gather all the contact information on current and future business partners before the event. The tools to help you network among exhibiting companies, or those just visiting CeBIT, are commonly available. For example: My CeBIT offered by CeBIT, or Future Match organized by the Enterprise Europe Network. There you can find potential partners and customers and arrange business meetings (if you start early!) before their calendars fill up. It’s also a great way to present your solutions to other companies and let others find you at the show. There are many places at CeBIT for networking meetings, so you don’t need to rent a booth. But you may want to scope out the best and scratch up a map and best times to use them. Depending on the responses you receive, this helps you forecast the ROI of your business trip. And don’t’ forget to consider how much money you can save meeting with partners from many different countries in one place, over just a few days.
Of course, having one’s own booth offers some big advantages. You can present your business to potential partners who are “shopping” at the show, or know of you but may prefer to meet you in person. But how to reduce those booth costs? Contact a local branch of the Enterprise Europe Network, Ministry of Economy, or other institutions in your country that support international business cooperation. They organize country or regional booths with local companies and welcome interest in their solutions.
And last but not least: remember that business doesn’t end at 6 PM when the visitors leave the CeBIT area. In those almost-empty halls, the all-important night shift begins – with meetings and parties at the international booths where, with a glass of beer in one hand and the second one free to shake hands, you can begin many a profitable cooperation. As in most shows, the actual deal-making often happens backstage!
What are your experiences at CeBIT or other tradeshows? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with our SMB readers?