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Has the Internet made Human Resource Trade Shows Obsolete?

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In October of 2008, I attended my first HR trade show. After the expense of flying form Tampa to Chicago, paying outrageous parking fees and taxi fees, I walked around honestly thinking I just don’t get it. The whole thing seemed as antiquated as a record store or a flea market.

The Human Resource Attendees

I did not see that many people at the HR Tech Show who actually seemed like they were looking for HR software. For those that were, how much are they really going to learn by running around and talking to various sales reps at various booths? They are not going to see a detailed HRIS or HRMS demo, and they won’t receive a quote or a proposal. They might get a free tee shirt or maybe even a stress ball. Does any of this really assist with their selection process? Sure they can pick up brochures and other marketing materials but could they not get this same information off the websites?

Honestly you could get everything except the stress ball just by going to the vendor’s website. I mean come on, why go through the whole dog and pony show when you can sit in your office and research everything you need without any pushy sales people to deal with?

I am certain there are individuals out there who are old school and would rather meet physical humans as opposed to websites. I of course am not that guy but I understand the point of those that are. I of course was at the show as well and I got a few really nice stress balls. I also met some really nice people.

The HR Vendors

The HR software vendors paid thousands of dollars for booths. Not to mention the outrageous cost of paying for the flights, parking and taxi fees. My parking fee at the hotel where I stayed was $45 a day. I live in Florida, we don’t pay $45 a day for parking. Most of the vendors had anywhere from several up to a dozen of their employees at the show. I did not add everything up but I think the show costs me close to a $1,500 to attend. What did we all receive for their investment? I’m still not real sure. Most of the vendors I spoke to indicated that they received anywhere between ten and thirty leads from the show. I am certain that many of the vendors were competing for the same leads. I have yet to speak to any vendor who actually closed a deal from the show. So why do these shows?

I guess an argument could be made that HR software vendors do these shows for exposure rather than leads. You know the whole okay they may not buy from us this time but if they see our name five or ten times they will think of us when it comes time to buy. Well maybe that’s accurate. I’m not real sure.

Given the cost of one of these shows and the results from it, I would think the vendors would be better off taking that investment and using it to increase their pay per click advertising budget. This is where my argument about the internet making HR trade obsolete shows comes into play. I would think the vendors could create more leads by having their employees who attended the show cold call for the same amount of time.

The HR Tech show might struggle for vendors next year. The vast majority of vendors I have spoken to have indicated that they will participate in the much larger SHRM show but won’t be attending or participating in HR Tech. It would not surprise me to see the show cancelled at some point.

How did the show work for me?

I spent my hard earned money to go the HR Tech show, was it worth it? Yes, for me it was. I got the chance to meet face to face for the first time with many of our existing HR software vendors, and spoke with a number of prospective vendors and I should see several of these sign up for our lead generation service in the next couple of months. I am not sure I will be in Chicago next year but I will be in New Orleans this summer.

If nothing else these shows are a lot of fun and they represent a nice break from lots of hard work. Maybe that’s why the prospects and the vendors show up at these shows. It’s a good enough reason for me to continue to do so.

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