The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) celebrates its silver jubilee this year. That means 60 years of existence, making this exhibition one of the oldest on the continent. ZITF dates back to May 1960 when Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother opened the then Central African Trade Fair.
Preparations for this year’s showcase are already full throttle. The show will take place from 23rd to 27th April, 2019, under the theme “Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment.”
A Fresh Approach for 2019
Acting general manager, Nicholas Ndebele, said that the annual business expo will focus on the inclusion of previously excluded groups, apart from its usual thrust of attracting foreign participants.
This should be good news to those businesses that have felt that ZITF being is a show that is only for the ‘big guns.’ Although the expo has opened up to small to medium enterprises in the last few years, this tacit announcement by management indicates that there will be deliberate efforts to ensure that the so-called ‘small fry’ also benefit.
We are yet to hear what measures are in place to make the trade fair more friendly to SMEs and other previously marginalised sectors. This should be a boon for entrepreneurs eager for a boost to their fortunes in an economy that has largely been challenging for many.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities at ZITF
As has been my custom, I have found it necessary to dole out advice as to how businesses can take advantage of the opportunities presented by exhibitions such as ZITF. From the onset one should realise that, exhibitions are but a tool in the hands of an entrepreneur to market, and grow their business.
This entails a clear understanding of what an exhibition is all about. This helps participants to avoid suffering from a crisis of expectations as to what their investment in participating will yield. Simply put, the ZITF is one gigantic marketplace. The major advantage of this particular showcase is that it is multi-sectoral. That is, it brings different sectors of the economy onto one site.
These sectors include those from government, businesses in industry, commerce, mining, technology, education, hospitality, and agriculture. So, take your pick! Everyone will be represented there. Depending on what your business is all about, you will find the ZITF a godsend.
Planning Your Participation
I mentioned planning. It is important to plan how you are going to use this invaluable platform to benefit your business. The question you should ask yourself is: what is it that I want to do at ZITF or during that period when the whole country’s economic might literally moves to Bulawayo.
You could be launching your business or new products, or just keen on generating leads through networking. Some attend to do market and industrial intelligence. They seek inspiration to formulate new ideas that can eventually be turned into a formal business proposition.
Alternatively, you could be in the service industry, eager to take advantage of the thousands of people who will be trooping to Bulawayo before and during that hectic week. Those in the catering and hospitality industries are poised to make a killing.
Literally so, when they raise prices in order to take advantage of that annual opportunity to get rich pickings.
The decision to exhibit should be informed by your strategy, preparedness and how deep your pockets are. Without a realistic budget, participating can be disastrous. Preparation means proper planning with your team, sharing the budget options and having a clear marketing strategy. Remember: it is ZITF\’s job to publicise the show in general, but yours to pull clients to your stand.
The onus is on you to target and invite your prospects by setting appointments. If there are any events that you plan to stage during the event, then hiring event management companies in good time is key.
The Elephant in the Room
Let us not forget the elephant in the room. Setting up the exhibit is a specialised and time-sensitive task. Designs, materials and other logistical issues related to participating such as hotel and transport bookings are done \”like yesterday\”. Doing things at the last minute and expecting to perform miracles is the root cause of ‘show stress.’
The helpful staff at the ZITF Company are there to guide you. Make it a point to attend their pre-show workshops so that you don’t get any surprises. Hire competent event managers and stand designers and, more importantly, train the staff that will be at your stand.
I always say that participating at the ZITF is a labour of love. If your heart is in it, and you adequately prepare in good time, you will be richly rewarded. Don’t hesitate to seek experts like Magna Carta for assistance- though we come at a cost, that should be part of your budget.
If you intend to be part of the ZITF’s silver jubilee in 2019 and you haven’t started preparing by now, then your time is running out. Don’t stampede just because your boss feels it’s cool to be there. There are those entities that shall remain nameless, that are ordered to exhibit in ‘the national interest.’ We have catalogues of disasters we can share about this group.
There is no harm attending as a visitor to check out the opposition. In any case, not all of us have that capacity to spend on exhibiting. The Trade Fair is good for networking and building prospects without you breaking the bank. Whatever it is that you choose, just don’t miss out on the opportunity.
Lenox Mhlanga is Lead Consultant with Magna Carta Reputation Management, a public relations agency. He can be contacted for exhibitions counsel and other PR solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on mobile 0772 400 656.