Yesterday, I was at another meeting where everyone agreed that our failure to attract a younger crowd is a contributor to declining trade show attendance in our industry. I don’t think it’s quite that simple, but there was a universal response to the question of, “What do we do about that? How do we engage more young people in our industry and trade shows?”
The solution presented with conviction was social media, that is, Facebook and Twitter. For example, I heard, “Young people communicate differently than we did in our 20s. We have to come to grips with that and communicate using the tools they use”. That resonated with the audience, but what a gigantic understatement! And, when I pressed those same participants on exactly how they would use Facebook and Twitter to increase trade show attendance, the conversation came to a screeching halt.
The exchange struck me a lot like saying, “to do surgery, you need a scalpel.” Or, handing someone a voltmeter that’s never seen one, and saying, “here’s your solution to submersible troubleshooting”. Just naming a tool is not a fix.
We could talk pages about declining trade show attendance, and I certainly don’t have all (or even most) of the answers, especially if it involves social media. There’s no doubt that social media is an important tool. However, like many things, knowing what the tool is and knowing how to use it effectively are miles and generations apart.