I recently finished a trade show in Houston for 60,000 of my closest friends. It was the Offshore Technology Conference held every year at the Reliant Center. My client, whose name you’d all know, had a 20 x 60 exhibit.
In the past they had catering in their booth for an hour toward the end of the day. This was the first year I had this wonderful piece of business, and the first thing I did was cut the catering. WHAT? Cut the catering? Why? Because it didn’t make sense. So, you ask, when does it make sense to do catering in an exhibit?
Let me answer that question and others you might — or should — ask yourself when deciding whether to have catering in your exhibit.
In almost every instance, catering has to be ordered through the facility. It’s will be rare that you can bring in your own. This client’s catering was open to anyone walking by and was intended to draw traffic into their exhibit.
I didn’t find this fiscally responsible because they had no idea if they were hitting their target audience or just someone wanting a free glass of wine. I felt it made more sense to put this money into useful giveaways for their customers or prospects (i.e., a branded iPad sleeve).
The staff that worked the exhibit said this year’s approach was better because, previously, the exhibit got trashed with people leaving garbage, spilling and not wanting to leave. Putting money into a giveaway let the client talk with customers and prospects and be more strategic about spending and giveaway branding. Plus it allowed our staff to spend time with the people who mattered most to the success of the company’s profitability.
So, when is it preferable to have catering in the exhibit? I recommend doing it only when it makes sense. When you’re doing an invited scenario, like a press conference or reception for invited guests, for example. This way the culinary is purposeful and going to people you want to have your food.
Another example: I have a client who wants to use food to emphasize their global reach. Each day they plan to highlight foods from a region along with that region’s brands.
If it’s a must to do catering for whomever is walking by, most people go to mass production like a cappuccino machine or popcorn cart.
I hope this helps exhibit managers moving forward.
This is my story for now, and I’m sticking to it.