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Do cross-sector and cross-disciplinary trade fairs make sense? Can they hold their own – after the experience of three years of pandemic – against trade congresses and topic-specific events? Since ABB and AUCOTEC, among others, did not exhibit at the Hanover Fair this year, I thought it would be interesting to get a sense of the mood from some exhibitors. Even though they are only isolated examples, they give an idea of the considerations that play a role here.

Here are the answers from Stephen Rose, Senior Vice President, Communciation Services at Siemens.

Ulrich Sendler: What is your attitude to trade shows after the pandemic break?

Stephen Rose: Trade shows are more than exhibitions. They are marketplaces, places of international encounters and drivers of multi-layered activities in the participating companies in order to convince customers and other stakeholders in direct comparison with its competitors. Trade shows are therefore a very good opportunity for visitors to gain an independent overview of the market and its participants in a short period of time, and to gain an impression of offerings and innovations through personal dialog.

At present, we are seeing consolidation at major international flagship fairs, as well as regionalization and focusing at industry trade shows. This has several drivers: sustainability, costs, changed travel behavior, and digital information offerings. As a result, visitor numbers have declined in some cases, but at the same time the quality of visitors has increased.

Stephen Rose, Senior Vice President Communication Services, Siemens (Photo Siemens)

Ulrich Sendler: Do you have experience with online events?

Stephen Rose: Yes, at Siemens we have very extensive experience. We held our first virtual events years before the pandemic. During and shortly after the pandemic, we implemented about 250 virtual and hybrid events per year in a wide variety of formats. Virtual formats increase regional reach, but cannot replace the multisensory benefits of a face-to-face event on an equal footing. When choosing an event format, the decisive question for us is always how we can best reach our respective target groups – which is why we continue to rely on both worlds and combine them for the benefit of our customers.

In our view, virtual formats are part of the information offering and a personal exchange with our customers and partners. They do not compete with the classic trade shows, but complement the content presented there. They give interested parties who are unable to attend in person the opportunity to experience all the content virtually, whether during the event itself through live participation or in the aftermath of the event.

Ulrich Sendler: Which trade fairs are interesting for you?

Stephen Rose: Industry trade fairs, leading trade fairs, conferences and summits, depending on the business field and objective.

Ulrich Sendler: What other events do you use?

Stephen Rose: External and own customer events, conferences, showrooms, roadshows, press conferences and much more. In each case digital, hybrid or physical – depending on the objective and target group.

Ulrich Sendler: What are your main reasons for participating in trade shows?

The Siemens booth at the Hanover Fair 2023 (Photo Siemens)

Stephen Rose: First of all, trade shows should not be understood as a physical exhibition, but rather as an occasion to present oneself to an interested audience in a competitive environment. And we understand this occasion as part of the so-called “customer journey” with various digital and physical interaction points – with the aim of enabling new business relationships and deepening existing ones. The decision on which trade shows we exhibit at is based on criteria that are weighted differently depending on business goals and target groups.

Ulrich Sendler: What are your goals as an exhibitor?

Stephen Rose: The goals vary depending on the trade show and range from pure business initiation, partner acquisition and dialog in the ecosystem to communication-relevant goals in the area of press relations, image and reputation.

Ulrich Sendler: Where do you currently achieve these goals best?

Stephen Rose: That depends very much on the respective objective and the different markets and target groups.