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Dreaming big means having the courage and ambition to set yourself a goal that may seem impossible or out of reach. | Source: School Specialty
Dreaming big means having the courage and ambition to set yourself a goal that may seem impossible or out of reach. | Source: School Specialty

If only: Don’t be afraid to make an exhibition of yourself

Don’t be afraid to dream big. BARRY URQUHART discusses the importance of promoting your business in a post-pandemic retail landscape.

Many people lost touch during and because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is little wonder there is intense interest in and demand for conducting and engaging with exhibitions of products, services, and applications. 

Social isolation and quarantines damage people's psyches. Most long to reach out, connect, and engage with people who matter. That includes clients, customers, suppliers, associates, and staff.

Astute business leaders are taking the opportunity to make an exhibition of their companies, brands, products, and people – sometimes extending to themselves. Being an exhibitionist seems timely.

Reservations about contaminations, intent, and understanding are readily and rapidly overcome. In their many incarnations and sizes, exhibitions fill needs and stimulate interest in new and established products, services, and apps.

Relationships are being rekindled, established, and extended. Increased business activities are natural consequences. Hosts are from a broad cross-section, including professional associations, buying groups, marketing networks, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers.

Creative concepts in invitation designs, displays, demonstrations and samplings generate interest in and demand for brands.

The shadow of the pandemic and its evolving variants overhang the marketplace. Attendance totals tend to be down, as do multiple registrations and participants.

Trials and tribulations associated with travel remain perceptual, if not an absolute, impediment and filters. This has been a catalyst for the programming and conduct of multiple smaller events.

Among the by-products are increased engagements, interactions, and transactions.

Swings and roundabouts

One significant emerging trend centres on contractions and terminating social media campaigns.

Increasingly, funds and budgets are allocated to re-entering and profiling a strong physical presence among existing, past, and prospective clients, customers, and collaborators.

Self-conducted exhibitions provide platforms with certain endearing and enduring features. These include exclusive access to time-specific events, stimulating interest and generating a sense of urgency.

"Astute business leaders are taking the opportunity to make an exhibition of their companies, brands, products, and people – sometimes extending to themselves."

Promoting new products, the full complementary range, infrastructure support, service arrangements, and specific offers capture attention and often represent enhanced value.

Everything old seems new again. In many instances, and covering numerous aspects, these events are relaunch and launch occasions.

They should be considered new, with formats free from traditions and past practices. Interactions, communication, and networking remain the key, fundamental and practical lubricants for commerce.

Social media and technology should be deployed to complement, not replace, the human quotient. When integrated, multi-channels are optimal for positioning companies, brands, people, and products.

The programs and schedules should feature facilitating interactions, including peers. Smaller, targeted events are seemingly appealing to promoters, invitees, and participants.

However, care must be taken to avoid overburdening targeted entities, executives, associates, clients and customers with messages, invitations, and opportunities. Saturation via social media has been a critical determinant in the declining use of those media.


In the prevailing time-poor, pandemic-affected marketplace, with attendant and consequential reluctance to be overexposed to viruses, infections, and medical and social contaminations, it is imperative to determine set and specific objectives for exhibitions and similar events.

A good starting point is a clean slate. Traditions and past practices, including scheduling, should be at least marginalised, if not deleted.

Attendee benefits, advantages and rewards must be conspicuous, alluring and compelling. Even in periods of recession, customers, clients, and purchasing managers find satisfaction and delight in purchases.

That is reason enough to contemplate planning, promoting, and conducting exhibitions and similar events.

New venues, presentations, and packages enhance appeal.

Against the backdrop of several variants of COVID-19, it is important to remember that in commerce, few things are more infectious than excitement and enthusiasm.

If only...

In business, as in life, all or most things are possible … within limits. The limits, boundaries, and parameters are self- or human-imposed. Exciting prospects remain unrecognised and unfulfilled.

It is sobering to realise that increased sales, enhanced market share, elevated competitiveness, and more repeat and loyal business are possible.

Fundamental is the need to recognise and not prematurely apply value judgments and tolerance levels. These impact, influence, and determine the quantum of advantages, benefits, and rewards. Variances and variability are inevitable.

Thus, the determination of right and wrong is arbitrary. The message is: don’t hold back.

"In business, as in life, all or most things are possible … within limits."

A strong focus on and commitment to desired goals and outcomes put into perspective the question - how?

An unencumbered, free flow of detailing, prioritising, costing, and integrating means expedites the possibilities, propositions, proposals, and hypotheses that are devoid of reservations, apprehensions, and risk resilience should be documented, evaluated, refined, developed, and possibly extended. Only then can and should value judgments be applied.

Permutations and computations generate a host of options. Significantly, the phrase ‘if only’ is by nature value-free. It multiplies tempting alternatives to the traditional, the established and the ingrained.

Product/service ranges, supply chains, communication channels, marketing content, systems, styles, structures, and shared values are and should be subjected to the challenging proposition—if only!

Dare yourself

Being bold, daring, and different seems logical in a crowded, suppressed, and contracting economy and marketplace, if not static.

Recent success stories have, understandably, prompted the statement: If only we had done this before. Questionably applied constraints should be cast aside.

Bunnings, the high-profile Australian hardware chain, is a case in point. It has recently significantly extended its product range twice. Pet food, toys, and care are now available in up to three aisles. The category of hardware has been remodelled to be home-based.

Unconditional love from pets is being returned and rewarded in spades with absolute non-discretionary purchases and expressions of love and fun.

Some 1,000 stock items of cleaning products, including dishwashing tablets, laundry liquid, and handwash, are now being added. Four aisles will feature the brand names OMO, Dettol, Sukin, and Sunbeam.

For Bunnings and others, the challenge is to venture into the unknown. In the past, such innovations were inconceivable and unattainable.

Compliance and conformity are constraining forces and characteristics of many public sector entities. They, too, would benefit from changes in attitudes, perspectives, and risk tolerance—if only.

For ideas, concepts, innovations, and technologies that do not ‘fit’, reverse engineering is an alternative. That is, the business model and template. If only.

Service stations were established in the late 1980s on petrol pumps, driveway service, bulk oil, lubritoriums, and greasy concrete floors that were particularly uninviting to female consumers and commuters.

The typical ethnic owner worked in the lubritorium in soiled overalls and transacted cash transactions. Modernity is refreshingly clean, bright, and inviting, with a strong emphasis on food-to-go and convenience.

No place to hide

Every aspect of business, society, family, and self could, and arguably should, be subjected to this concept of ‘if only’.

Generative artificial intelligence allows some businesses to increase their resonance with existing and prospective customers. Images can be finessed, ensuring more significant impact and recall.

For those business owners who choose to or insist on being the face, voice, and presence of the business, its products, services, and people, subtle ‘touch-ups’ with generative AI are possible.

Aging voices, conversational phrasing and sub-optimal articulation can (and possibly should) be recalibrated. The essential characteristics can be ‘intelligently’ retained. We can all do with help, sometimes and in some ways.

There is much to commend assertiveness, change, forthright counselling, and embracing the realisation of possibility and probability.

A founding step forward could be a simple, endearing and potentially enduring phrase: If only.



Barry Urquhart

Contributor • Marketing Focus

Barry Urquhart is managing director of Marketing Focus. He has been a consultant to the retail industry around the world since 1980. Visit: or email

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