The TS2 Cancellation – What Event Marketers Can Learn

I am sure that there are many, many factors that went into the failure of TS2, the Trade Show Industry Trade Show (or the Trade Show for Trade Shows if you will). I am not usually one to pick the carcass of the recently deceased (oh, who am I kidding, I am the one) but I think that there are some real lessons that meeting and event professionals can take away from this cancellation.

Again, I am sure that there are many reasons that the TS2 show was canceled, the economy is surely having an effect, and competing shows are another but one of the greatest reasons is the show’s failure to embrace and utilize social media beyond making a half-hearted effort. They had all of the pieces in place, they were off to a good start, they were halfway there and then it seemed they abandoned the journey.

As I am a fan of Zombie Movies and the show “The Walking Dead“, this would be like telling the group they have to escape to the CDC in Atlanta, packing up the guns, the kids, and the car, making a run through Zombie Infested territory and stopping halfway to Atlanta to sunbathe…….at which point the Zombies overrun you and you are toast. You must fight to get all the way to the destination, you must never give up and you must always keep moving forward, even when the going gets tough.

Things are tough for everyone right now, there are days that I really don’t want to work on this blog, my kid is screaming, clients need attention, and friends are calling… many reasons, but I write anyway, I make an effort to get all the way to the end. There are afternoons that I cringe at the thought of opening TweetDeck, but I do it because I feel some tug and pull. I know that I should be doing more with the PlannerWire Facebook page and work every day to find someone who can help me with that.

TS2 never reached the safety of the CDC to escape the Zombie hordes, they failed to connect fully with attendees, sponsors or exhibitors on the social level and that is something that can stave off failure in a bad economy because you create a community and communities stick together in good times and in bad.

TED, well known in industry circles, is an overwhelming success on many levels not because its content is the best or because they are that good. The TED Conferences are successful because they make a connection and never ever stop moving forward. They do not stop, they are like a machine. In fact, TED started in the 80’s, it took them this long to be a household name.

I personally know and respect many of the folks at TSEA (Trade Show Exhibitors Association) and they are associated with the TS2 show but not the planners and producers of the event, they are partners to TS2. The failure of the show is as huge a blow to them as it is to the rest of the industry and I can imagine how this is making them feel, they are a nice bunch of folks, who deserve better than this and we should all think of them today and know that they are the good guys.

That being said, the meetings and events industry is in a war for our very survival and if we can learn something from a lost battle then we must not look away. Car accidents are terrible, but by examining the wreckage, you can learn how to build a better car. We must look past the fact that this happened to friends and colleagues and examine what happened and in doing so, we can position ourselves to better face the challenges that will confront us next week, next month or next year.

This is a time for all of us to work together, friends and foes alike for the good of the industry.

It is my hope that TSEA starts their own show, picks up the pieces of this one and puts all of the parts together to get it right, and leaves TS2 to the Zombie Army which is surely picking away at the bones.

I took the liberty of taking some screenshots of TS2 social marketing efforts to illustrate my points about how TS2’s marketing machine never got going on all cylinders, was almost there, and then failed. I am 100% certain in my opinion that a failed social marketing strategy can kill an event and it is one of the reasons that this event was cancelled.


TS2 never made the connection that is so needed when using Twitter as a communication vehicle. You will notice a few things from these screenshots.

  • Not following – They are only following 91 people and they ain’t Oprah or Ashton Kutcher. It is imperative that you follow everyone who is remotely connected to your industry. The rule of thumb is that people you follow will follow you back, boosting your reach. When you start on Twitter, no one is going to seek you out, you have to go find them.
  • Lack of followers – TS2 only has about 450 followers (yes, I am one), because they follow so few, they have so few followers (rule of thumb, when you start, follow as many as Twitter will let you).
  • With Twitter, the power is the network, if you have no network, you have no power.
  • Another reason is the next bullet and screenshot.
  • Lack of interaction, lack of content, and frequency of posts – OMG, this is the biggest of their Twitter failures. They push out content erratically and don’t retweet quality industry information. Twitter was put on this earth so that you can show the world that you are an expert and can share the wealth, sorry, I am not seeing that here. Tweets every few days and no more than once a day when they do tweet. How can this be effective?
  • In order to be effective you must tweet quality information from you, your followers and even your competitors (I retweet competitors’ stuff all the time if I think that it is useful to my followers). You must also do it many times per day, not once every few days. Yes, it is OK to take a day off, but all of the other days must be consistent.


Another great vehicle for marketing an event, they squandered the opportunity by not connecting the way that Facebook requires. They simply pushed information to their fans and that is the surest way to get booted from their wall (where 95% of Facebook interaction takes place).

I will be the first to admit that although I do this very effectively for clients, it is a spot where I blow it for PlannerWire on a daily basis so I understand that it is hard work.

With Facebook, it is important to engage, not push. You have to ask questions, look for feedback, and want people to actively take part. You want their their experiences and their images. Facebook is about community, sharing and “hanging out”. Look at great Facebookers like TED, Jimmy Buffet and the Grateful Dead…. copying others success is a great way to get to the top.

Again, they were well on their way, they had posted images, liked the right pages, etc. They seemed to have just run out of steam. They even had 248 fans, believe it or not, that is quite a lot, the failure here is in the interaction…all they did was push, push, push content out, and they never interacted with their community.


The Blog:

I have said this 100 times and I will say it again, the blog is the most important part of your marketing strategy when it comes to events. This is the place where you have more than enough content to fill a warehouse and still have stuff left over to start another blog.

TS2 did not capitalize on their blog. They posted consistently, but stopped in July, just stopped. It has taken me three years to get this blog to a point where I actually had someone quote something back to me that I had written…. three years (Thanks Ann Nell!). This is a marathon, not a sprint (this is a cliche and one that works).

I have to be honest, the content that they had on their blog is actually good – It really is. Perhaps if they were more active on Facebook and Twitter it could have gained a foothold and really taken off.

In the post in this shot, they are having a contest, I wonder if they used Twitter and Facebook to promote that contest.

TS2 Blog

Failing at the Social Media side of Marketing is not the only reason that this show was cancelled I am sure, but I would venture to guess that it is a major part of the puzzle. If you are having an event and you know what your community is up too, what they are thinking and what they are doing, you can make important decisions knowing how your supporters and fans are going to react.

I know that I am beating this to death, but TS2 had all of the pieces in place, they had the right stuff and they seemed to be 90% there and then they slammed on the brakes.

This is the best analogy I could come up with:

TS2 built a house using the finest architect. They had the bedrooms (Twitter), the kitchen (Facebook), the Garage (Blog), and even the home office (LinkedIn), the structure was built and looked beautiful. This was an amazing home that someone would be proud to live in, what they forgot was the family, the soul that makes a house a home….

When a house is a home, people will come to visit.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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