A trade show is an event organized to bring together people from a specific industry over several days to network, demonstrate, discuss, test, learn, and sometimes buy the latest products, services, and best practices within their field.
For example, one of the largest trade shows in the USA is CONEXPO-CON held every three years in Las Vegas. It gathers business owners, managers, and experts in the construction industry representing everything from asphalt, concrete, earthmoving, lifting, mining, utilities, and more. It features 2,800 exhibitors in 2.5 million square feet space and includes 150 education sessions.
Since trade shows such as CONEXPO draw attendance from members within a given industry, they are excellent opportunities for marketing in-person to experts within the field. No other marketing channel provides sustained one-on-one face-to-face discussions with knowledgeable decision-makers. Because of the unique format of reaching contacts directly, some companies invest heavily in trade shows, fairs, expositions, and business expos as a strategy to reach large volumes of quality connections.
Some trade shows are only open to members of their related industry such as the Consumer Electronics Show, which tries to limit attendance to workers in the field of electronics. However, most of the largest trade shows have components for industry experts and the broader interested public such as South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX.
What to Expect at a Trade Show
Most major trade shows take place in convention centers in metropolitan regions over the course of a few days or up to a week. The main centerpiece of any trade show is an exhibition hall. Companies reserve booth space to setup displays showcasing their work. A standard booth space at US trade shows is 10’ x 10’ and likely would be filled with a pop-up display with counter promoting the company’s products or services, and used as an opportunity to demonstrate, meet-and-greet, or discuss their offerings. Booth displays can be much larger and more extravagant depending on the importance a company places on a certain trade show as well as their standing in the global industry.
The major components of most trade shows include:
- Exhibition space
- Educational seminars, workshops, and/or hands-on training
- Morning & evening networking events
- State of the industry presentations
- Private exhibitor events including awards presentations
- Q&A with the media
Why Participate in a Trade Show
Trade shows provide one of the most unique opportunities to network and connect directly face-to-face with potential customers. Since most sales marketing channels connect with potential clients through online or over the phone, being able to meet in-person with hundreds if not tens of thousands over the course of a few days provides an unparalleled experience.
Companies exhibit at trade shows to connect with new customers, grow relationships with existing clients, access dealers and distributors within their industry, and network with influencers. Businesses attend trade shows to learn about new products, to educate themselves about trends and best practices, and to network with people within their industry.
For a relatively small investment, you can collect extremely important connections.
Where to Find Lists of Trade Shows
If your company determines that it’s time to begin exhibiting or attending trade shows, there are numerous resources for finding trade shows
- Trade Show News Network (TSNN)
- International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE)
- Trade Show Calendar on MODdisplays