4 Candid Observations from #BowlExpo16

I’ve never been a fan of exhibiting at trade shows.

From a business perspective, they tend to yield the highest cost-per-lead of all marketing channels and require A LOT of man-hours to pull off—all for a minimal return.

The International Bowl Expo 2016 gave me a whole new perspective on the value of trade shows.

As a newbie to the industry, I went into it with an open mind. Plus, I’ve never turned down a chance to go to Vegas.

What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but I’m going to share a few observations from #bowlexpo16 anyways:

#1 It was a great team-building activity

What better way to prepare for Bowl Expo than bowling a few games with your team? It helped us get in the right frame of mind (Pun intended).

As you’ll see in this video, it’s less about bowling the perfect game and more about having fun.

Yes, there were countless man-hours spent traveling and setting up the booth. Yes, we exerted tremendous mental energy coordinating logistics and figuring out how to put the booth together.

One key observation was how we were communicating, problem-solving, and working together to reach a shared objective. It was arguably one of the best team-building activities that I’ve ever experienced.

A video posted by Yosuke Carter (@yocarter) on

#2 Interactions can lead to the Next Big Thing

Any time I’m learning about a new industry, my favorite question to ask is, “What’s the next big thing?”  

As the behaviors of consumers change and the changing of the times, how will the bowling centers keep up or even reclaim the premier entertainment option status that it used to so many years ago?

It seems that there is a genuine effort to modernize facilities and add other sources of entertainment. There seems to be an interest in improving marketing effectiveness to generate more demand for bowling.

In my conversations about the next big thing, the opportunities seem to be in identifying any gaps in existing types of products or services. It’s from the interactions between exhibitors and proprietors, and proprietors with their customers that spark new ideas that close those gaps.

Disruption is a process that occurs through these interactions. Many consider the boutique bowling trend as a disruptor.  While this boutique option seems pretty straightforward customers are demanding a full and unique experience.  Everything from the great food, service, music and atmosphere all combine to build an amazing experience that can’t be replicated.

#3 New ways to attract people to your booth

I’m always in the search of new ways to reach desired outcomes. When it comes to driving traffic to booths, I asked a few exhibitors the question, “How are you attracting people to your booth?”

The most common answers were: email blasts, giveaways, or eye contact.

With the rapid advancement of technology, every marketer and proprietor has to find new ways to create awareness, peak interest, and deliver an integrated customer experience. It requires the vision, knowledge, and application of digital marketing capabilities.

I was encouraged to see some fun and entertaining ways exhibitors used the #bowlexpo16 hashtag on Twitter:

There were awesome giveaways.

There were autographs.

And more autographs.

Photos of new products.

There was even a dance party.

#4 It’s all about making meaningful connections

My favorite part of Bowl Expo was meeting our customers, strategic partners, and some really cool people.

Virtually meeting someone through email or video conference isn’t the same as meeting them in person. It’s the difference between watching a Broncos game at Invesco Field versus watching it on TV. Sure it’s more expensive and time consuming to get a seat in the stadium, but a much better all around experience.

The great conversations, eye contact, and uncontrolled laughter don’t happen very often during virtual meetings.

One place where all of those things occurred was at the famous Fab 5 VIP Bash, a customer appreciation event hosted by Trainertainment, Creative Works, Bowling Music Network, Redemption Plus, and Party Center Software.

It was a blast!

Instead of thinking in terms of Return on Investment, I now have a newfound appreciation for the Return on Relationships.

The connections we make with individuals lead to introductions to other people in our network. It’s the thread of a vibrant community. When it comes to moving an industry forward, community is everything.

Piecing it All Together

I’m still not a fan of exhibiting at trade shows as a way of generating leads, but the International Bowl Expo 2016 has given me a whole new perspective on the intrinsic value that is hard to quantify.

It’s less about exchanging business cards and more about exchanging ideas. It’s less about building the biggest trade show booth and more about building a vibrant community.

It’s up to exhibitors and proprietors to take what we learned and turning it into action. Our actions will introduce the next big thing that will transform the industry.

What were your biggest takeaways from Bowl Expo this year? What do you want to see next year? Feel free to share on Twitter using #bowlexpo16.


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