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Do Vertical Shows still matter to Sales and Marketing Professionals?

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by Kathy Strachan


I recently attended Offshore Europe 2011 in Aberdeen – a three day event that is growing in size in terms of layout and exhibitors, although attendee numbers were down somewhat from the previous show in 2009.  With 82,000 square feet of exhibition space it was bigger, and many said better, than previous events.  The number of attendees to the three-day show rose by 4.2% to an all-time record of 32,025 unique attendees, generating around £85 million to the economy of northeast Scotland. I had the opportunity to talk with numerous people about the state of the industry and what’s new in the technology.


Has news of the death of the trade show been greatly exaggerated? I believe so, since a significant number of companies still consider the trade show an important enough component of their marketing mix that they continue to invest significant resources in attending them.  


The perceived value of this show was demonstrated by the wide range of delegates in attendance.  Joining those from the major European countries were first time delegations from Brazil, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, all “trying to learn to improve and bolster production in a safe way” through learning from the North Sea.  Exhibitors from China, Japan and Indonesia also participated as well as from the USA, making this a truly international event.  Attendees represented all sectors of the industry – the major operators (Shell, BP, Total, etc.) were out in force.


Notably, some smaller players were present and they are making a real impact by taking over the aging, mature fields to ensure continued production for many years and often using a variety of EOR (enhanced oil recovery) techniques in the process. These newer, smaller companies use their size to be more flexible, decisive, and innovative.  A prominent example was TAQA Bratani who has grown rapidly since entering the North Sea a few years ago.


The majority of the stands were taken by all sorts of service providers – from pump, valve, pipe manufacturers to drill bit makers, and catering companies to wireline logging firms as well as a range of software developers. Also, recruitment featured strongly with the operators and the recruitment consultants promoting the industry.


This highly focused event provided an opportunity for industry peers, vendors of all kinds of industry solutions and potential users of those solutions to meet face to face.  This opportunity seemed to be regarded as a highly efficient approach to information exchange.


Of course, being noticed is essential for exhibitors and a significant component is the ‘attraction’ that will draw visitors to the stand and, for many, this is the subject of much creativity.  Some do manage to make their technology, product or service the focus – for example, in addition to the all-important excellent coffee stand and well-received freebies, TAQA also had a small room where an impressive 3d film of the Tern Field was shown.


By way of a ‘straw poll’ on the value of the show, I talked to a range of software developers present, from the big players, e.g., Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes (and also a Scottish SolidWorks seller) to the more industry-focused players such as Aveva, Tekla, Open Mind Technologies and those offering specialist technical solutions like Ansys and cd-adapco.


The Autodesk exhibitor in particular was very pleased with the show since he had seen so many service companies using Autodesk software to demonstrate their products.  This was a key innovation since the last oil show I attended several years ago.  Many booths sported at least one flat screen PC running promotional material for their company, which also acted as a free marketing aide for the software used to produce it!  Many had big screens, sometimes 3D productions and others a mini lecture theatre to demonstrate their wares.


Indeed, all the software exhibitors I spoke to were positive about the show, emphasising the discussions they had been able to have with visitors and happy with the material they had distributed.  So, I think we can safely say that vertical shows do matter and will for some time to come! 

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