Trade shows are a marketing investment that can provide numerous benefits to your company. Unfortunately, if they’re not well planned they can also drain your resources without providing many returns. Choosing trade shows that are ideal for your business is a critical part of making sure your trade show experiences are worth your time, effort and money.

Establish Objectives

Figure out what you are seeking to accomplish through trade shows and develop specific goals and objectives for your show program. Create a strategy to help you meet your goals and objectives. Identifying your target audience is an important part of developing a strategy and helps you focus your planning.

Identify Your Options

Research possibilities and make a list of shows you might want to attend in the next year. Include in your list the large shows for your industry and ask your top customers which trade shows they attend. Put all the possibilities on the list initially, even ones that overlap so that you can see when show attendance may be divided. There are a number of resources, like our Upcoming Shows section, that provide you with a compiled list of trade shows in your industry or area and can save you a lot of time searching online.

Gather Information

Obtain as much information as possible about the shows you are most interested in by speaking to show management, past exhibitors and attendees. The information you gather should include the following:

  • Statistics
  • Demographics
  • Lists of previous participants
  • Show reputation in the industry
  • Social media posts about past and upcoming shows
  • Marketing plan for the show
  • Event history and longevity

Scope out the Show

If possible, visit the show yourself before signing up as an exhibitor. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate the show and supporting events to discover pros and cons of that particular show. While it is an investment to attend a show, it is much less expensive than exhibiting and gives you firsthand knowledge to help you decide if it is a good fit for your business. Play it safe by not participating in first time shows, which are more risky than established ones.

Consider the Location

Geographical location should be taken into account when evaluating a show. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of show attendees usually come from a 200-mile radius of the location, so consider the location in light of your target audience and distribution area. On the other hand, many industries have a few top trade shows that attract attendees from a larger area. These are often prime shows to be involved in, but are likely to require additional travel expenses for your team.
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Look at the Timing

Make sure you don’t have any conflicting events with the trade shows you are interested in attending because it can greatly increase expenses to exhibit at two trade shows at once. Also check to see if there are other trade shows at the same time that might draw attendees away, or other events in the same city that could cause conflicts in terms of flights, transportation and hotel rates. You should also consider the time of year in relation to your customers’ buying habits to determine if the show is too early or too late in the season.

Additional Marketing Opportunities

Find out what other opportunities are available at the trade shows you are evaluating. Sponsorship opportunities, presenting at educational seminars or participating in product showcases can increase visibility, and opportunities and pricing varies by show.

Create a Budget

Make your budget as detailed and realistic as possible and remove from your list any trade shows that you cannot afford. Create a schedule of shows that fit within your budget and leave yourself room for unexpected changes and expenses.

Choose Your Space

Look into the available booth space at the trade show. Booth location is important when exhibiting so make sure there is space available that fits your needs and budget. Consider whether the space will fit with your current booth or if you will have to develop a new one for the show. Also think about how close you want to be to the following:

  • Main attractions
  • Restrooms
  • Industry leaders
  • Food
  • Entrances and exits
  • Competitors
  • Stairs, escalators and elevators
  • Windows
  • Seminars or other event locations

Try to avoid these negative areas and features:

  • Low ceilings
  • Dead-ends
  • Obstructions, such as columns
  • Loading areas
  • Dark or poorly lit areas
  • LIFO set-up spaces (last in/first out)
  • Ceiling water pipes

With a little planning and research you can figure out which trade shows are most likely to give you a good return. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed, give us a call and we can help you narrow down your options to find a good fit. Our team has years of experience, and we are happy to assist you throughout your trade show process.

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