Telling Stone is in the business of providing software that replaces manual forms used by exhibitors to place orders for goods and services they need in their trade show booth. That’s a good start to making things more efficient, but the exhibition industry overall needs a strategic plan to standardize and manage the data required to automate the exhibitor services portion of a trade show from beginning to end. Between show management, the venue, the general service contractor, specialty suppliers and EACs, there’s a lot of duplicate data being stored without a standard in place to support its sharing. That data includes:
- Exhibitor Lists.
These change incredibly frequently. Booth numbers change, companies cancel or sign up, or contacts change. Think about all the places the same exhibitor list is created and maintained: show management, the GSC, each supplier, and the venue. Ideally the exhibitor list would be posted in a central place where anyone with appropriate access can get to it, managed by the show organizer.
- Contact information.
Each exhibitor has a main contact with an address, telephone and e-mail information. Each exhibitor also has an on site contact. The main contact is registering on any number of web sites, including the show site, the general service contractor’s site and any other supplier who offers online ordering. In a perfect world, the exhibitor contact would need to register only once, and their access granted to any system involved in the planning of or ordering for the show.
- Product Lists.
A supplier presumably has an internal system where product lists are managed. But in order to allow those products to be sold in other systems (such as the general service contractor’s system or the venue’s system) the product list currently needs to be rekeyed. Instead, a central industry “mall” should securely allow a supplier to maintain their product listings and be pulled by show organizers as desired in preparing what would then be considered the next generation exhibitor kit.
The travel industry’s standards body, OpenTravel (http://www.opentravel.org), has established standards for almost every nook and cranny of the industry, including taking a pass at the exhibitor and booth setup. These standards were created and submitted to OpenTravel via the Convention Industry Council’s APEX’s initiative (http://www.conventionindustry.org/apex/apex.htm). The work completed thus far is a good first step but will require refinement to make the needed data touch points a reality in the exhibition industry. Only then can exhibitors focus more on the purpose and measurement of their presence at the show rather than preparing the booth itself.