By Lisa Plummer — Tradeshow Week,03/29/2010
The recently formed Exhibit Industry Council released the first section of what its leaders say will be a complete Best Practices Guide on the sidelines of Exhibitor, held May 14-18 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
The document, titled “Full Disclosure and Control of Exhibitor Costs: Best Practice Guide,” according to Jim Wurm, EIC spokesman and executive director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Assn., should create new exhibition industry standards that include cost transparency and controls, while increasing exhibitor value and promoting improved customer service at tradeshows.
“This is a … guide on how every tradeshow industry stakeholder shares in the responsibility to control exhibitor’s tradeshow costs,” Wurm said.
The Exhibit Industry Council is a coalition of exhibitor-focused associations formed last fall to address issues of interest to tradeshow exhibitors. Its founding member associations are the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Assn., Trade Show Exhibitors Assn., Corporate Event Marketing Assn., Exhibit Designers & Producers Assn. and EACA.
Speaking on behalf of the associations during Exhibitor, Wurm said exhibitors are frustrated with inconsistent and rising costs and want change. The EIC intends for the Best Practices Guide to be its blueprint to transform what Wurm called an outdated business model not supportive enough of exhibitor success.
“These are recommendations,” Wurm said. “We’re not a legislative body, we can’t force anybody to do anything, but we are encouraging everybody to work together to make the environment more effective for the exhibitor.”
Topics addressed in the document include bundling, material handling surcharges, undisclosed discounts between general service contractors and organizers, forced shipments, exclusives and general service contractor conduct, along with suggested best practices for each issue.
The alliance and best practices document is in response to long-standing frustrations that appear to have reached a fever pitch during the recent economic downturn, Wurm said.
“The economic downturn has exposed a number of business practices that have been in our industry for years, even decades,” he added.
According to Wurm, EIC will make the guide available to the industry and promote it through its Website, exhibitor advocacy committees, webinars and presentations at industry events. He said the next step will be to invite the collaboration of other industry interests, including show organizers, facilities, general service contractors and unions.
Out on the Exhibitor showfloor, many participants of the show that focuses on tradeshow exhibiting were enthusiastic about the group’s suggestions.
Jamia Harris, director of U.S. operations of Opus 3 Creative, said she especially hoped rising labor and drayage rates would be addressed.
“When you quote labor rates in Chicago that are double Las Vegas, that are double Orlando, that’s crazy,” Harris said. “There needs to be some sort of consideration of exhibitors and attendees because, ultimately, the price gets passed down from exhibitor to customer to attendee.”
John Driscoll, president of Showcraft, said the tradeshow business model that was set up 30 or 40 years ago is outdated and no longer works for the overall good of the industry.
“I think we’re going to be in a phase probably for the next year where there’s going to be a challenging and a questioning of best practices to evolve a model that is more conducive to global competition,” Driscoll said. “Getting everybody in the same room and locking the door is probably the best thing until we come up with some answers.”
Wurm warned that if costs continue to rise unchecked, exhibiting companies will abandon more shows, events will become less compelling and attendees will stop coming, creating what he described as a “death spiral.”
“We need to find ways to improve the process for exhibitors so they feel like a welcome part of the community and get the kind of service that’s commensurate with the investment they made,” he added. “When we work together to make sure our exhibitors succeed, we all win.”