by Tom Isler | November 01, 2007

Discover Beauty pavilion at Cosmoprof North America


Attracting fresh faces:
The Discover Beauty pavilion
at Cosmoprof North America

Ask any trade show organizer to defend the value of his or her event, and Exhibit A is likely to be the indispensable opportunity for face-to-face interaction between buyers and sellers. It may well be true, even in the Internet and iPhone age, that nothing beats a handshake or a sit-down meeting. But that argument begs two questions: Are trade shows equally effective venues for everyone, regardless of company size or budget, looking to make one-on-one connections? And, more importantly, are trade shows ideal environments for face-to-face meetings?

In recent years, some show organizers have tinkered with the formats of their shows, shifting the emphasis away from the traditional exhibit floor with endless rows of booths, simply for the sake of change. Dwindling attendance and waning exhibitor support have forced other organizers to invent new models for their events to save them from obsolescence.

Here’s a look at some companies and associations that have abandoned the standard trade show format in search of a better model that focuses more directly on pairing buyers and sellers, and helping smaller companies compete on an even playing field with industry leaders.

The pavilion

A pavilion is a specially themed group of exhibitors that is set apart from the rest on a trade show floor. Creating a pavilion can be a baby step toward change -- a way to inject new life into a show without a conceptual overhaul.

Earlier this year, however, Daniela Ciocan, Las Vegas-based director of marketing for Societa Gestione Cosmoprof (SoGeCos), an Italian company that produces several beauty and cosmetics shows, took pavilions to a new level entirely. It happened at Cosmoprof North America, held in July at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

Ciocan conceived and launched Discover Beauty, a pavilion for a dozen U.S. startups and foreign cosmetics firms entering the U.S. market for the first time. Each exhibitor, which Ciocan hand-picked after reviewing applicants’ products, not only enjoyed desirable foot traffic, because Discover Beauty was marketed as a special destination on the show floor, but benefitted from a host of other services that would have cost thousands of dollars elsewhere, if they could be purchased at all.

Ciocan arranged for each Discover Beauty exhibitor to meet with VIP buyers from high-end specialty stores such as Nordstrom and Sephora, people who normally don’t attend many trade shows and are out of reach for most young companies.

But Ciocan didn’t stop there. Using her industry contacts, she set up meetings with beauty magazine editors in New York and personally pitched the exhibitors’ new products to them. She also consulted with each exhibiting company in the pavilion, prepping representatives for their one-on-one meetings with buyers. She helped them ready presentations and, in some cases, showed them how to write effective press releases.

When the exhibitors arrived at the show, all they had to bring were samples of their products. To minimize the discrepancies between companies with disparate budgets for exhibit booth design, Ciocan discouraged exhibitors from bringing decorations, in part to control the clean, tasteful look of the pavilion, and in part to counteract the “arms race” of booth decor. “We wanted to give equal opportunity to everyone,” she says.

The endeavor yielded “phenomenal results,” according to Ciocan, but it was costly to produce, despite the fact that exhibitors paid higher-than-normal registration fees to participate. The process monopolized Ciocan’s time and energy, and SoGeCos didn’t quite break even on the feature this first year, Ciocan notes. However, she views the pavilion, which will likely double in size for next year’s show, as an investment that will help the overall show grow.

Discover Beauty attracted new and loyal exhibitors and engaged high-end retailers, a market segment that’s currently underrepresented at Cosmoprof North America.