10 Tips for Choosing the Right Trade Show to Attend

Trade-Show-ChoiceWhether it’s the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas or the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, most trade show exhibitors are loyal to their favorites. But what happens when your return on investment (ROI) is falling short? Or when you’re looking to expand into a new market? There are several factors to consider when trying to figure out which trade show to attend. Here are 10 tips to get you started.

1. Establish Your Intent. 

Before you even begin to look at which trade shows options are available, you need to clearly define your objectives and strategy. Start by figuring out what it is you want to accomplish by attending the trade show. Do your goals include:

  • Increasing leads and or sales?
  • Raising awareness about your company?
  • Strengthening relationships with customers?
  • Launching a new product or service?

Only AFTER you’ve clearly defined your objectives and strategy should you begin to search for trade show options.

2. Know Your Options.

New trade shows are constantly popping up across the globe. You can waste hours online searching for trade shows. Or, save yourself the headache and make use of resources already available that do the work for you. Our trade show calendar lets you easily search for upcoming trade shows by industry, country, month etc. and then links you directly to the latest trade show exhibitor information.

3. Channel Your Inner Sherlock.

Once you have a few options in mind, do your research to learn more about each trade show so you can figure out how this show will contribute to accomplishing your objectives. Find everything you can from shows statistics and demographics to a list of previous year’s participants and attendee numbers. This information is usually readily available from the show’s management and can help you quickly narrow down your list of possible trade shows, not to mention your top brass will most likely request this information at some point. Read my blog on how to measure trade show KPIs for more on this topic.

4. Look Into The Event History.

Once you’ve identified a list of potential trade shows, narrow down the list by digging deeper into the event history. It is a new trade show, or has it been around for several years? While an event’s longevity is certainly a good indicator of success, don’t stop there. Check into how well the event has been publicized in the past and if the show organizers have a good reputation or not. If you know of another organization that has attended in the past, reach out to them and ask about their exhibiting experience.

5. Consider The Timing.

When evaluating trade shows, don’t forget to look into if there are any conflicting events you already plan to attend. Concurrent shows can double your expenses if you have to create a second trade show exhibit for purchase or rent another one to be able to attend two shows at once. You should also look into what other events are taking place in the same city during that time frame. Even if the other events aren’t trade show related, an influx of people can make a huge difference in flights, hotel rates and transportation. Lastly, consider how the timing of this trade show aligns with your customer’s buying patterns. Is it too late in the year or too early? Will your company have any new products to debut?

6. Establish A Budget.

It doesn’t matter if the trade show looks perfect on paper if you can’t afford to exhibit. In addition to the cost to rent booth space and your booth design, remember to factor in shows services, travel and expenses, promotional material and of course shipping. Trade show costs can add up quickly, so make sure to do your homework on the costs involved ahead of time to avoid surprises later.

7. Check Space Availability.

Once you’ve decided on a trade show, you also need to look into what booth spaces are available on the show floor. Booth location will have a big impact on the amount of traffic your display attracts. And remember: not all booth spaces are created equal. Does the space available fit your existing booth layout? Will you need to build a new exhibit, or if your trade show exhibit is modular, how will you configure component design within the available space?

8. Evaluate Press Opportunities.

In addition to the event itself, what other marketing possibilities could the show offer? Are there educational seminars you can participate in or any sponsorship opportunities? Ask for the previous year’s press list and a list of currently registered media attendees. If you decide to attend the trade show, contact the press early and send them information about your company. Valuable marketing opportunities can increase your ROI.

9. Understand The Audience.

A trade show can be the largest in its industry or have a massive amount of attendees each year, but that doesn’t mean much if your booth traffic doesn’t align with your target audience. Studies show that roughly 50% of trade show attendees come from a 200-mile radius of the show location. So look beyond the initial numbers and look into what percentage of attendees actually fit your customer profile. Figure out what percentage of your top prospects and current clients plan to attend. The exhibition production company should be able to provide statistics. Read 4 Ways to Target Quality Crowds for tips on this topic.

10. Step Away From The Computer.

Online research is quick, easy and for the most part – valuable. But, if at all possible, try to attend the show in person before exhibiting. Just like a vacation spot, some things look much better in the brochure and the only way to really know is to see it firsthand. Walk the show floor. Talk to trade show exhibitors. In addition to just checking out the show itself, you can save yourself a lot of time (and money!) in the long run if you check out the surroundings while you are there. Think hotels, best places to eat, transportation and more. Your team will thank you later!

Once you have done all of this research, it should be easy to determine which trade show exhibit is right for you. But if you still find yourself running in circles when it comes to selecting the right trade show for your needs, give us a call at 800-217-9479. We’d be happy to share our years of experience in the trade show industry with you and provide any guidance you need.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.

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