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Jewelry Shows Missing the Boat When it Comes to Education, Says Marketing Coach Jim Ackerman

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Jewelry shows are no longer an indispensable way to purchase merchandise, even though one can make the case they still provide the best hands-on and comparative way to check out products. But where else can you go for the kind of education that jewelers need in today’s marketplace?

In this area, both jewelers and show organizers are missing the boat.

Jewelers are missing the boat because they do not make education the primary reason for their attendance.

Show organizers are missing the boat because they see education as a necessary annoyance. I get it. Education isn’t a profit center for them; it’s an expense. And consequently, show organizers give education as little time, effort and budget as they can get by with. As a result, speakers are often inexperienced and dull. They often simply pitch products and services, rather than providing meaningful, practical content.

Sessions are too short. How much useful information can be presented in 40 minutes or an hour? Attendees walk away thinking, “Sounds like a good idea, but I have no idea how to implement it.” Then they go home and do nothing.

Some shows are now charging amateurs instead of paying professionals to speak, so companies “buy up” education slots and turn them into commercials. And again, the presenters are often, well, boring, because they’re not speakers, they’re salespeople. 

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Presenters often are prohibited from selling anything from the platform. This may seem like a contradiction to what I just said, but it’s not. If the session is only an overview, and the audience can’t learn how the presenter can help with implementation, the jeweler and the presenter both leave frustrated.

I suggest the following: Jewelers should insist on better programs and should make education their prime reason for attendance. Show organizers should consider fewer yet longer sessions, and should use professional presenters exclusively.

Show organizers can and should seek appropriate sponsors for speakers and topics. This will enable them to pay for those speakers and increase the speaking budget. Attendees will get more compelling, useful sessions, and therefore will be more inclined to return.

Show organizers can help education sponsors sell their products by providing time within each session for a brief and fair “pitch” by the sponsor. This can include a special show offer.

Show organizers are likely to balk at these suggestions, as will the vendors who pay for trade-show floor space and want attendees on the floor buying their stuff. But they’re not getting people on the floor anyway. The glut of shows and the declining attendance across the board prove that. 

It’s time for the industry to think outside of the box, shake up the shows and do it differently.

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Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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