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“Trade Fairs are a Rendezvous with the Future” — Messe München & Startups

Participating in a trade show is expensive, requires some preparation and the days can be long and exhausting — why and how trade show participation can still make sense for startups is what we wanted to learn from Klaus Dittrich, Chairman and CEO of Messe München.

Mr. Dittrich, many startups have very little to zero capacity planned for public relations, let alone for time consuming trade show activities. Why do you think participating in a trade show is still worthwhile for startups?

Klaus Dittrich Messe München
Our interview partner Klaus Dittrich, Chairman and CEO of Messe München.

Every trade show is a representation of an entire industry. That means an industry is condensed down to X halls for a specific period of time so exhibitors and visitors can share their experience, expand their networks and also get to know about innovations, competitors and, of course, potential customers. Talking with potential customers and partners is particularly relevant for startups. Trade shows offer founders a unique opportunity to position and establish themselves in their market. Something that also shouldn’t be forgotten is that modern trade shows can be a welcome change of pace with their new formats for events and experiences. The fun you can have during and after a day at a trade show usually makes you forget about all the hard work.

Exhibitors and visitors want to get to know startups

Many of the shows at München Messe – from electronica to ISPO – have their very own startup programs. Why are startups now also so interesting for trade shows?

Trade shows are a rendezvous with the future. That means they’ve always been a platform for innovations. Innovative new products are often presented to a large audience for the first time here, regardless of whether it’s a consumer goods or capital goods trade show. It’s in the very nature of startups to create innovations with which they quite often revolutionize entire industries. That’s why it’s not only natural, but also absolutely essential, for us as a trade show venue to promote the participation of startups in our events. As I already mentioned, trade shows reflect an entire industry, and that also includes startups. And of course our exhibitors and visitors also ask that we give them the opportunity to meet young, innovative and ambitious companies. That’s why we’re continuously expanding our offers for startups. We’re now in a position to facilitate a suitable trade show appearance for young companies from a wide range of different industries.

Which trade shows are particularly interesting for startups? And, why?

Based on the reasons I already mentioned, basically every trade show is interesting for startups. One condition, of course, is that the trade show needs to bring together the leading companies in an industry. That’s something I can at least vouch for at our trade shows. That being said, there’s certainly a difference in the degree of maturity of the startup programs for each of our trade shows. That’s due to the fact that trade shows like ISPO Munich already started developing their program thirty years ago. It has produced many successful startups as a result. One of them is GoPro, which owes its international breakthrough to participating in ISPO Brandnew in 2005.

With the right preparation, the investment is well worth it

What should a startup expect a trade show appearance to cost approximately? Is any financial support available? And what does Messe München do specifically to make it possible for startups to participate in a trade show?

There’s no doubt that participating in a trade show is expensive. Large companies can easily spend a few million euros. What we offer startups, however, are customized, affordable options for being able to participate. That might be a solo appearance in an area especially for startups, shared stands (for example, one funded by BMWi) or even stands that are free of charge that are provided by sponsors. More information about our offers and additional useful tips are available for founders on our website under “Startup Boost” or in our “Startup Boost” brochure. But in general, it certainly can be said that startups can make a good appearance at a trade show for a few thousand euros. Our success stories demonstrate that with the right preparation, the investment is well worth it.

What makes for a good trade show appearance in your eyes?

A good appearance at a trade show always starts with thorough preparation – and by the way, Messe München also offers valuable services, such as “Your Key to Trade Fair Success” from our subsidiary Meplan, which coaches young companies for the perfect trade show appearance. Founders should think about what they want to specifically achieve at the trade show and back their objectives with quantifiable KPIs to be able to define the appropriate measures and instruments. A concrete example might be finding a new, strategic investor or to make a particular number of new business contacts in the relevant industry. In general, a good trade show appearance should make visitors want to learn more about the company’s product or service. If I manage to stand out from other exhibitors by creatively showcasing my product or presenting an innovation, then my trade show appearance will definitely be a success.

Make new contacts, get to know industries and have fun

To conclude, would you tell us three points that make a trade show a success from an exhibitor’s point of view?

The main reason an exhibitor participates in a trade show is to advance their company. It is therefore important to make new contacts, which might include potential buyers for products and services, possible partnerships or simply interested individuals to talk with, for instance about developing new business models.

Furthermore, I need to be able to take something away from the trade show and learn something new about the industry I’m active in – especially about where it’s headed in the future, what new technologies, products and methods are available and who the key competitors are.

And last but not least, a trade show also needs to be enjoyable and fun for me as an exhibitor – that’s also an important part of a successful trade show.

More information about innovations at Messe München.