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October 8, 2019

Are Trade Shows Still Relevant in Our Industry?

Season 2
This episode is sponsored by
Gibson Reports
Are Trade Shows Still Relevant in Our Industry?
In this episode our hosts sit down with our very own Sponsor David Gibson owner of Gibson Reports. They discuss the value of trade shows in today’s industry. The Industry is rapidly changing and will trade shows be able to keep up with the change? Discussion of exhibiting vs attending of which could be more beneficial for your business and more.

This episode is sponsored by

Gibson Reports
Gibson Reports

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Episode Transcription

Welcome to the Erdos Miller New Technology podcast. I'm David Erdos.

And I'm Zack Gaston, filling in for Ken Miller.

Today's episode is sponsored by Gibson Reports.

That's me, Gibsonreports.com. Your only directional drilling market share report, and soon to be also regulatory automated filing. So, like I said, be sure to check us out on LinkedIn, also watch the [V-door Locksmith's Show 00:00:30], #Vidoorlocksmith on LinkedIn, and Gibsonreports.com.

Thanks for having me here, guys.

Of course.

Of course.

Thanks for coming.

Today, we're going to be talking about trade shows.

Yeah, I brought up this topic today. I brought it today with me down from Canada, but what I want to know is, are trade shows still relevant in our industry? We still have trade shows, large ones, small ones, regional ones, world ones. I mean-


... Do you think it's still relevant? And, having David here, in the office, was a good opportunity for us to pick his brain as well, as another person who's pretty active in marketing as well. So, what do you think David?

It's definitely one of those things to where you have to be able to weigh out the success or the potential success of the show and the time commitment allotted to it. One of the things I always look at before... Because, Gibson reports is so small, we have no reason to set up a booth or anything... Before I even decide to go attend a show, I'm looking at who's going to be there to begin with. Are my potential customers there? Are there people there that are going to be... I like to say, "Sitting ducks at conference shows." So it's like, "I'm going to go sell you. So, you're going to be trapped in your little yard or domain of a 10 by 10 box. Can I know that somebody is going to be there, manning the booth, and I can go pitch my product to you?"

And, just saying that, you realize that I'm attending this thing to go sell to the people that are hopefully there to sell to other people that have happened to go in and go, "I want to learn something new." And so, you kind of get the reverse. If you want to be sold to, there's probably a good chance you should set up a booth and you're looking for new vendors or things like that, or you're trying to get the general word out. But, I think, for the most part, the success of having a client come stop by, especially in our industry, it's very specific to the niche oil field services and things like that. Having somebody walk by that's actually going to be a potential customer, I think is very rare. But now, if we moved into, let's say, the fitness business, where a potential client is every person that walks past you. [crosstalk 00:02:50]

If you're a personal trainer and you go set up a booth or something, that's a phenomenal idea, because you could sell to the people next to you, sell the people behind you, anybody that happens to be there, even if they're just janitorial people that are cleaning up afterwards and be like, "Hey, I'm a personal trainer. Let's get you set up."


That's one of those things where it depends upon your business, your best strategy, who your target market is. I think for oil field services, unless it's a very concentrated, it's a very specific event, it's not really worth setting up a booth. It's really not. Now, if it's a small niche market, like we did the [IDD Intuity 00:03:33] event in June, there it was just a certain group of companies. It's not OTC where you could have [MWD 00:03:41] next to somebody who's selling nuts and bolts.

Literally, they're selling nuts and bolts and then [crosstalk 00:03:46] or rope, or then the person that's down next to them is selling light fixtures or car insurance or something. Because, OTC is just flooded with noise. If it's really concentrated, then yeah, then I think that point in time, because I don't know what the principle is, but the whole thing where [O'Reilly's 00:04:06] and [AutoZone 00:04:07] are always next to each other. I don't know what it's called, but there's some-

The same as CVS and Walgreens. I don't know what it's called, but they always-

Yeah. You always see them right next to each other. So, I think that same thing, worse, is if there's a whole bunch of a single type of service company or manufacturer of a product that are all next to each other, then it's going to bring out the customers of that.

Because, then it's like, "Okay, now all of the people that I want to meet with or have conversations with, are all... Boom, right there with each other." And so, then that allows them to be able to save time, instead of having five meetings, an hour long each day throughout the week. You can go spend one day, in five hours, and hit all of the people that they need to have conversations with.

So, it really just depends on the event. But, I think for the most part, the costs associated, the time that personnel are away from work, and the lack of people actually following up with all of the business cards and the leads and stuff that they get. If you don't get something killer, I think a lot of people just like, "Okay, well, yeah. We'll follow up, we'll talk on Monday or something." And then, everybody goes back to work, like they've been on vacation for a week.


And so, they're trying to catch up for the time that they were away for the event. And then, you're trying to follow up with new leads as well. It's a wash.

God, I'm so guilty of it too. You have the four days at OTC, right?


That's one of the biggest shows, we're in Houston, it's in Houston. So, that's one that we go to and Friday is almost a total wash. You're following up or you're just dead tired from standing in the booth for 40 plus hours. And then, you have all the workload that was stacking up while you're at the show laying right there on your desk. Friday morning when you wake up and you're going, "Oh my gosh, how am I even going to get this done?" Or, "I need to follow up, but I also need to do tasks from all that week."

And, the people that are following up... You're following up with somebody, but 40 other people at the show are also following up with the person that was at the show.


And so, they're given out tons of emails. And, from my experience, if I give out my card at an event, I'm like, "Hey, yeah." And, "We had a conversation." If I don't see that person taking notes, I'm like, "That was a wasted conversation, because you're not going to remember." Let's be honest. In a sea of people, they're not going to go, "Oh, that's David Gibson." It's one of those things where you'll get towards the end of the conference or the end of the show and you'll be like, "We had a conversation on Tuesday with a guy that was talking to us about directional drilling market share."


What else did we talk about with him?


Ah, so, you're trying to follow up, a hundred other people trying to follow up and you're trying to catch up on your job, and you're trying to do all these other things? It becomes a complete disaster. I will say this, if you do do the shows and you take really good notes, which what I do is, we'll have for the last show, it is actually a partnership with you guys a while back, you had a notebook and as soon as you get done with the conversation, you staple their business card into the notebook, and then you write all the notes right below it.


Usually, if you're having a conversation, you have a wing person whose sole responsibility is just to listen and just remember what took place during the conversation.

Yeah, take notes.

Take notes and then we'll go back and we're like, "All right, this is what we talked about, this is this person." You don't put the cards in your pocket. You either take a picture of them or you staple them to something, so that you've got that history of that record of what took place. So, I can talk about this for [crosstalk 00:07:39].

Yeah. So, going back to your signal to noise ratio, when you were talking about how there's so few people that are actually relevant for a given industry, I think what we've seen with OTC, is that there's usually one or two people that we meet that make the show worth it.

Oh, yeah. So, you'll see hundreds of people go by the booth. Hundreds of conversations happen. There's a fixed stack of cards, come through about this big. And then, through that, maybe one or two solid opportunities that come out of that.

That actually turn into a deal.

Yeah. That actually started into a deal that we move forward with. Now, the deals make it worth going back to the show, but it is pretty cumbersome. Basically, there's 50,000 people that attend.


300 of which I've got business cards for. And then, one or two out of the entire stack, proceed forward. Doing the big shows and then also doing the smaller shows, the more the [micro brew wave shows 00:08:27], where you have specialized... Like the IDD event back in June. You basically have everyone in one spot, like you say, it takes five hours to do the entire logistics of setup, preparation and tear-down was all in a single day. And, we still were able to hit just about every single attendee. So, it's easier to maintain focus at a smaller event than it is the larger ones. Because, having focus for an entire week when you're starting to get tired, when you're over-caffeinated, day three, day four comes around, I don't know. I did appreciate having a shorter show. It made it less of a, "Oh, here we go."

And, like you said there with the IDD event, it was very focused as being part of the organization or organizing it. We knew who was going to attend. We had a very focused set. I think, for companies that are doing things at OTC, that's when you're looking at your business development is like, "We're trying to find people that we never would have thought of before." At OTC, you're obviously not hoping that a specific client comes by or that a specific group comes by. You're just going, "I hope somebody from [Azerbaijan 00:09:41] or somebody from China or somebody from Australia, who I've never heard of, and they've never heard of me, happens to walk by and goes, 'So, what do you guys do here?'" And, you give your little, one-minute elevator pitch, and then they go, "So, wait, you do this? I've never heard of you guys before."

And, you're like, "What do you do? And then, they're like, "Oh, we should do some work together." You have so many of those conversations. It's just people walking by going, "What do you guys do? What do you do? What do you do?" And, you just do that back and forth. Like, "Are we a match? Are we a match? Nope." It's almost [crosstalk 00:10:15] like speed dating. It's like a little swipe thing.


If people would just walk by and be like, "No, I don't need to talk to any of the... Maybe this one. No, no, no, no, no. Maybe this one." If, as people were filing through, they would just get like, "Here are all your matching companies, go visit these booths, because these are the things you're looking for."

Here's an interesting idea.

Well, there you go. There's a new app for everybody out there. If you're an entrepreneur, go for it.

[crosstalk 00:10:38]

What if you could merge the two ideas in OTC [forced 00:10:46], instead of it being this mixed bag of where people are positioned, do you have the MWD area of the center and the nuts and bolts area of the center and the rope area of the center? And then, you get the world feel, so you do get to reach out and meet those guys from all over the world that you would have never met, but instead of organizing by country, you organized by discipline.

I completely agree with it. I know that the people who spend a lot of money on OTC would completely disagree, because it's been around so long. And, the way that it works, it's the seniority kind of thing. The sporting seats are like-

Priority points as well.

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:11:27] But, what it is, is that, they're looking at, who's been doing it the longest, and then they get first priority of pick a location and stuff. So, you have the big companies getting "the best spot", in the middle, in the main arena and stuff. That's why anytime I go, I'm always looking at the peripheral stuff. I'll walk around the outside of the main area. And then, I go outside and I go to the arena, because that's where all the new companies are at, because no new company is in the middle. And, none the guys that are in the middle, have the really nice spots. They've been around for years and they spent tons of money. They may have new technology that they're bringing out, but that's not who I'm looking for. Those aren't the companies that I'm looking to be able to talk to. So, I think it would be great if they did that. At least if they had at least some rules of like, "Okay, this area is going to be this."

Even an option you can choose to be in.

Yeah. I know they do regional stuff. They'll be like, "Okay, this is just... Germany will buy like an entire section. And then, China buys a big area." And, then they just sell out those little spots and stuff. So, the organization of it, it would help tremendously if that were to take place. But, I still think at the end of the day, you're not getting buyers at the event. You're not getting people who want to spend money at the event. I think it's become more of just a spectacle and everybody's just like, "OTC's this week. Okay. This is the week to have meetings offsite." And, everybody uses OTC as the excuse. Then they go walk around like, "I didn't see anything. But, I had a lot of really good meetings before after our offsite." So, there's still value there in that week. But, in being present at the event and putting a booth on display, I don't think it's there.

So, I know with, with giant events like GPS or OTC or [ADAPAC 00:13:24], there's always the side events or the night events or something like that, where a company will get together and they'll say, "Okay, we'll do a mixer or a [crosstalk 00:13:33] networking night." I think people have their... It's a good way to organize all the people that are at the show. Obviously, it's a little bit more casual, I would think, at some of these mixers, I missed your invite last year to the crawfish boil [fellas 00:13:48].

So, I don't know. Have you been to these? Do you think it's a good place for business, doing any kind of networking event after or during the show or anything like that? It's kind of a supplement. Everyone's gathered in one place, so make a tiny event of your own that's nearby.

I'll let you answer that one, David.

I've attended a handful of the events and I think what you're saying is, what it does, is it, one, if whoever's hosting the event, they're wanting their customers to show up, either their existing customers or potential customers to show up. And, that's going to give you better options as far as the dollars that you're spending. And, what you're doing is, you're hoping that the big event brings in people and that they go do whatever during the day, but then, at night or even during it, one company does their big crawfish boil, during the event.


Right. I can see where those are very, very beneficial. And, I think that there's probably a lot more, or there's a lot better return there, than just being at the event itself. Like I said, that that big of an event, you're just hoping to be able to run into somebody that you've never heard of, they've never heard of you, or people that may have heard of you that you haven't heard of, that they just saw that you're going to be there, that kind of thing.

So, I think we've been talking a bit about whether it's worth attending a trade show as an exhibitor. What about as an attendee? I know, from my experience, I've found it pretty valuable to be able to see what's out there with the market, what people are making and make connections with technology that I wouldn't otherwise like, "Oh, look at what they're doing in this completely other field that could be relevant to my industry."

Yeah. I know that there's been times where I've attended events where my competitors had a booth and I would just stand outside of their booth from a distance, and then just watch who walked up and talk to them. And, when they walked away, if they were there for long enough to actually look like a customer, then I go, "Hey, man, I saw you talking to those guys. What do you, what do you do?" I've got no problem doing that. There's nothing wrong with me being able to come in and be a buzzard or whatnot at the events. So, I think, once again, it depends on who's got their stuff on display. What value can I get out of the event? What's the cost to go to the event?

Because, these are some of the big conference events, but then you also have other events where it's like an SPE workshop or something where there's maybe not a lot of booths or something. There might be two, three or something, but then it's, "Who else is attending this? Who else is going to be here, listening and learning from it?" And, those are the ones where it's a lot more difficult to be able to figure out if I'm going to spend the money to go to, because someone can be fairly pricey. Those are the ones where I'm like, "Okay, I have a pretty good idea that the three or four people that I would need to talk to are going to be there, plus, I get the chance to be able to learn something." Right. Yeah.

That's pretty key. It's like, "Am I going to learn something or I'm going to meet somebody? What am I going to get out of this at the end of the day?"

Yeah. When you were telling me the example of you standing from a distance, peering at them, talking to their customers, I can only imagine you back there, making faces.

Trying to distract them.


I'll make sure whoever it is, if I'm trying to steal their clients or something, that they're not going to notice that I'm walking by or anything like that. It was a couple of years ago that I did that for-

Put on fake mustache.

Fake mustache on top of the real one.


Yeah. So, I'll just say, I did it. I had fun. I had pretty good success with it. The thing is, be aware, know that that kind of stuff's happening and if not, now you know, and plan accordingly.

One thing I try to do, when I'm selecting a new show that I've never been to, is go walk the show from the get-go before I actually bother getting the trade show materials out and going and exhibiting, you can actually see the traffic. You can get a feel for the conversations. Is it dead? Is it dragging? Is it only sales guys, us sales guys, at the show? Or, are there actual technical guys, like David, that are roaming around and really just trying to learn something? So, that's what I do before I select a show and propose that we spend our budget on going out to a new one. So, that's my secret.

What's always interesting, is if you look at it, what events do operators attend? What events do operators put a booth at?


I've asked so many people in our industry this, nobody knows. But, then you go to [NAPE 00:18:28], I've been to NAPE, and they've got their booths there. Right. Then it's like, "Okay, who's at that booth?" Those are some of the events that we think outside the box where it's like, "This isn't really about oil field services, right. This is about [landman 00:18:44] and stuff like that." But, your client has a booth, like UGI, XTO, Pioneer. They paid for space to be there. One of the other ones is the [IOGCC's Interstate Oil and Gas Commission Compact 00:18:57] or something.

I've heard of that one.

It's for regulatory stuff. But, I think one of the most recent ones, it was actually sponsored by EOG. It's probably the regulatory people, but there's probably also a lot of their C-level execs and in the higher level executives that are going to be at that event. So, those are the things you need to start looking at. You got to open your eyes a little bit and go, "Okay. OTC, no. The [Gillian 00:19:27] juniors aren't taking the day off to go to that. But, would they be taking off to be able to go to some other things?"

So, that's the thing, you got to be able to put yourself in the mind of your client and say, "What events are they going to attend? Where are they going to get value?" That's one of the challenges part of being the IDD right now, is we want to be able to get higher operator attendance, because we know that when the operators attend and they're part of the meetings, that the service companies and stuff will follow. But, that's the thing, is we have to be able to provide an educational [bull 00:19:59] and valuable experience to the operators, and give them a reason to be able to take time out of their day, to be able to come to the event.

That is a very hard challenge, I would suppose. So, I don't interact with operators on a daily basis, because since we do a lot of engineering projects, it's generally with service companies that are trying to meet some kind of need. So, I have no ideas off the top of my head, how you would pull in an operator. How do you do it? I suppose.

It's something that I think that, not just myself, but all organizations have that challenge of being able to... And, it's not just for conferences. It's for any kind of marketing or sales effort, is to be able to dangle a carrot out there, that gets the operators to come out of their shell, bubble, whatever you want to call it. To get them to be able to come out and go, "Oh, I'm interested in learning about this, or I'm interested in partaking in this." Because, if you look at it, think of an operator as... Look at them as far as their business model. If you are a Pioneer, per se, or [count/ con 00:21:06] or any non-publicly trade... Well, those are all publicly traded.

So, think of a non-publicly traded operator. They have no reason to have a website. They have no reason to put their name on a billboard. They sell to a pipeline. They don't need to have a marketing department. I actually had this discussion with the high level HR person at [Marathon 00:21:33]. I was like, "All you're doing is, you're marketing for personnel and talent." Otherwise, you have zero reasons. So, if you do have educational events, SPE events, whatever the case may be. In other industries, you're going to have the top of the food chain, you're going to have Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, or any of these other big companies. You're going to have them attending events, because they also have customers. They want to be able to put their product out there. They want to be able to sponsor these events so that that people can see them.

If you're not publicly traded, like [Oxy 00:22:10], they're publicly traded. That's why they have a billboard at [Minute Maid Stadium 00:22:14]. With their big [tape/ tank 00:22:16] back there. But, if you're not a publicly traded operator, it is like in Texas, where we have over 365 active operators in Texas. And, a lot of them are very small. If you're a small operator, a lot of these guys don't have websites. They don't have LinkedIn pages. They don't have anything that a normal company would have. So, what's their reason for even attending stuff if they already have a baked-in client and they know at $55 a barrel, they can put something in a pipeline? I don't know what the numbers are, but they don't need to attend. They don't need to be able to put their name out there. Other organizations, other companies, do. They need to be able to do that marketing.

So, that's where the dynamic of selling and marketing and conferences, with operators, really changes, because they don't have the normal reasons to be able to come out. Their HR department does, to be able to hire people. But, other than that, they could just lock up the doors, turn off the website and just be like, "Yeah, we're good. We're just going to go with it the way this." So, to be able to get them to come out, you have to have something intriguing. Something that's actually going to bring value back to that organization. But, then that starts the whole sales cycle thing over. It's like, "Okay, what can we do that provides them value?"

Yeah. What is it that'll bring them out? You have the carrot, but then you have to follow up with actual value. You can't bring them out and then once they're out there, just burn them. You got to actually give them what they're looking for. And so, I think probably it, you're right. Whoever can find that, has got themselves a winner of a conference, I think.

It'd be a winner of a conference, but you've got to see like, "Are we doing for completions? Are we doing for drilling? Are we doing for production? What different departments are we focused in on?" So, different types of people are going to come out for different reasons. But, yeah, if somebody can really be able to figure out what it is that's going to get these people to come out and be able to provide value and be able to do it on an annual basis, and then allow service companies and people that sell to them to also be there, and not attack them like buzzards. Because, you'll go to these things and you'll see operators there and everybody's, "Attack, attack, attack." These guys are getting pitched to all the time. Just think about the number of service companies that are out at [riggs side 00:24:34] at one time. All of those companies had to pitch that drilling insurance or that company, at some point in time, and they've all got 10 competitors and those 10 competitors are trying to pitch as well.

Yeah. Be cool. That's the message I would send, is, "Be cool." Also, I think we're running short on time for today, but I do think we did identify some points. Are trade shows worth it? Yes. With the asterisk next to it, that if you're just now getting into trade shows for oil and gas, try one of the smaller shows first, because you can get that high value for lower costs. Kind of like an all-in-one-day event, like the IDD event that happened back in June. That was a great value. And, if you've got the budget for it, try some of the international shows and see how that goes for you.

Well, I like your suggestion of going to the show as an attendee first, to walk it and see what it's like, before committing to it.

Yeah. That's another one.


Make sure you're still around for the next year. [crosstalk 00:25:35] Save some of that budget. If you're doing marketing stuff, just start doing social media first.


Do that first. Yeah. If you can win on social media, then go win in person.


That's all the time we have for today. Thanks for listening and watching. If you liked this episode, please like and subscribe.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Bye, Ken. Nice to meet you.