Frugality in Exhibitions

Many were huge and luxurious. Over the years, I've been to numerous shows and I always observed some extravagant booths erected for the pleasure of the visitors. At the ISC West Security Trade Show in Las Vegas in 2007 for example, before the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, exhibitors competed to show who could play it bigger, regardless the risks of the impending storm. My opinion has always been this - It was a huge waste for just a three-day show.

Some giant companies, mainly through mergers and acquisitions, went a great length to entertain their invited guests and some really turned their booths into a mini casino, or into a lounge to serve beers and snacks. They were putting up a show, convincing everybody that they were still in good shape, and business was still burgeoning. But was this represent the true picture of the situation?

Extravagant booth
A few hundred thousand dollars good money was poured into the gutter just like that. These companies certainly would not agree with my opinion and may simply rebuke it as my defense mechanism.

But the truth of the matter is, many of the companies that were putting up extravagant booths were no Microsoft, Apple, Oracle or Google. Most of them debt-ridden, have poor profitability, some even have red ink in their books. Throwing a big party, inviting their clients to Vegas for networking purposes? When there could be other economical means to achieve the same objective. Some argues that it has always been the business culture to establish 'close-tie' relationships with their clients in the project-based business. But I think for a good sense of a corporation is the ability to stand firm, and have the responsibility to right the wrong. Was it necessary to commit 'sin' in the Sin City?

There is a simple psychological logic for organizers to entice exhibitors into having a larger commitment. Are you sure you want to look modest when your competitor is setting up a huge booth with grandeur design just next to you? Many were not willing to admit 'defeat' and ended up with bigger booths, taller renovations, prettier and sexier models walking around the booth.

For me, I'm okay with having humble exhibition booths, mostly we book 9 square meters, or sometimes 18. There are some of our partners that took larger space than us for their exhibitions.

All we needed to complete our shell scheme booth included a gorgeous backdrop, a few appealing posters or buntings, some FingerTec readers with display stands, a laptop computer, some gifts, product catalogues and two stand managers to take care of visitors. Simplicity. This is what FingerTec strives for. You may call it frugal; I prefer to call it the "Zen" concept.

FingerTec's exhibition booth

I encourage our staff to stay longer to tour and explore the country for a few more days on leisure at the company's expenditure. What a waste to rush back for such a good opportunity to travel overseas! Traveling light makes them easy to move around especially after the show, with brochures all gone and sample units all sold. It is my belief that one has to admire and understand the culture of a country and be able to absorb the findings to improve the products and systems to better be accepted by the local people. That's one of my goals for having my people take part in overseas exhibitions, besides gaining the global market exposure for some technology trends.

It's a common belief that a smaller booth would help sending away the prospects to your opponents; simply because the booth is not visible enough and it doesn't project enough confidence. I can't dismiss this statement all together as totally nonsense. But you can't judge a book by its cover, and furthermore, unless more values are added, nobody can deny that the overall impact can be expected from an exhibition is declining.

When information can be obtained easily and instantly from a website, through Internet anytime and anywhere; surely exhibition is losing its ground. But even though in the Information Age, you would see how little some businesses spend in Internet, but willing to churn out big buck for some less effective expositions.

I don't have an exact figure for the number of customers we yielded from exhibitions, but no doubt it would be much lesser than our Internet marketing efforts. And nowadays, nobody will just hear the bragging in the exhibition and signed up some contracts without thoroughly checking your background in the Internet. But in reverse, a good website alone can deliver sales. We sold our products to 120 countries, only participated exhibitions in less than 20 countries. The virtual power now is much stronger than the brick and mortar.

We have two exhibitions in this month-end. SME Solutions Expo 2011 in Kuala Lumpur and SecuTech in Bangkok, Thailand. “Since FingerTec is making money, debt free and cash rich, why don’t you book a bigger booth?” Please, don’t ask this question again.

We welcome you to come meet us, talk to us, feel our products. Never mind our booth's size, we are whole-heartedly present to serve you, our esteemed clients.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Many were huge and luxurious. Over the years, I've been to numerous shows and I always observed some extravagant booths erected for t...