Trade Show Attendance: Who Attends Trade Shows?

You may find the idea of a trade show attendance quite overwhelming and feel like exhibiting at a trade show is an uphill task, one that will cost you an arm and a leg to organize. However, it will only take one attempt to dissolve your fears.

The most critical component of a trade show is the attendees. Some people say that the exhibitors and organizers are the essential players in the trade show industry. Clearly, without attendees, the effort you put in means nothing. However, high attendee numbers don’t always mean success, especially if there’s no plan to transform the number into sales.

Great trade show attendance is important. But first, who are these attendees?

And since the coronavirus pandemic, what has been the attendance rate at trade shows? We’ll look at these statistics and explore the industries where trade shows seem to have lost steam.

Who Attends Trade Shows?

trade show attendance : Who Attends Trade Shows?

The three main factors in any trade show are the

  • Exhibitors
  • Attendees
  • Organizers

The organizers put on the show. They source the venue, attract exhibitors, and promote the event.

Organizers may choose to put on a show that cuts across all sectors—a general trade show where all kinds of businesses are free to exhibit their goods and services—or focus on a particular industry—for example, a real estate trade show dedicated to the real estate industry.

The exhibitors are the businesses that display their products at these trade shows and, depending on the size of the show, there could be a dozen or hundreds. These exhibitors also promote their booths and lure attendees with freebies and offers.

The attendees are the people who make everything worth it. After hearing about a trade show, attendees visit intending to find great deals and make purchases. Some attendees also visit to do reviews and influence others about the products.

Other attendees visit to have fun and see new things—trade shows often have a carnival feel. Without attendees, a trade show has failed.

This means that not all visitors at trade shows are there to make purchases, and a high turnout may not necessarily mean a high turnover.

That is why the right demographic must be reached during trade show marketing. You should be able to reach as many people as possible from the group you hope will patronize you ahead of the trade show. 

As an organizer or an exhibitor, marketing your trade show is a critical step forward for the event to draw the right audience. Because it costs a lot of money to organize trade shows, attracting the proper set of people is necessary to make a profit.

Let’s look at the types of trade shows that can be organized.

Types of Trade Shows

There are different types of trade shows and they can be categorized into two major groups.

  • Consumer trade shows
  • Industry trade shows

Industry trade shows are for a specific industry and are generally closed to the public because they have a strict audience.

However, there are trade shows that involve both industrial and consumer merchandise. The most common type of trade show is the consumer trade show because it is an all-comers affair.

Exhibitors at these trade shows then attract customers who are expected to make purchases.

Examples of industry trade shows include aircraft/aviation trade shows, healthcare trade shows, food trade shows, publisher trade shows, homeowner trade shows, arts and craft trade shows, technology/video games trade shows, and automobile trade shows. 

These trade shows are often closed to the public because they are specific to industries. However, they can also be opened to the public.

For example, the tech trade shows present new hardware and software to industries and also individuals. So, industry trade shows can also be consumer-targeted.

Regardless of the type of trade show, you’ll likely find exhibit spaces, workshops and presentations, interaction, fun, music, food, and lots more.

Trade Show Attendance: What Are the Statistics?

What Are the Statistics?

Before we go into the statistics, it is essential to identify the major reasons for organizing trade shows. Three main reasons can immediately be identified. They are:

  • Presentations of new products or services to the public or industry
  • Making new sales contacts
  • Generating new sales ideas

Although there are different myths about them, the success of a trade show really comes down to how many leads were generated there and how many sales were made from these leads.

To learn how successful a trade show was, you need to calculate the cost of the trade show and compare it to the leads generated.

Many industries feel that the cost of organizing trade shows is enormous and not really profitable.

For example, consider this statement made by Kenton E. McElhattan, a former president and chairman of the National Mine Service Company:

“The major reason we go to trade shows is that our competitors are there…mostly, it’s a matter of image.”

So, are trade shows really just about image? And, if so, can a positive image’s impact on a company be measured?

Let’s look at the statistics.

13,000 trade shows occur annually in the United States, with Las Vegas, Chicago, and Orlando drawing the biggest numbers. So, they are still very popular.

Although only about 14% of top companies say they made a healthy ROI on their trade shows, more than half of business leaders believe that trade shows draw more customers than any other marketing strategy.

Although almost half of all exhibitors follow up their leads after the show, with as much as 80% using emails to contact them, only about 6% of exhibitors believe that they can convert their leads from a trade show into sales.

The reason is that it takes at least four calls to convert a single lead. Remember, a trade show involves several other exhibitors, so the competition is fierce.

Trade shows aren’t cheap to organize. Many companies spend up to a third of their marketing budget on one, with many companies spending between $700–$1,500 to display their products.

A lot of companies also spend on giveaways and snacks. However, meeting a client at your trade show is cheaper than going to their offices.

Promoting the trade show costs money too. 42% of exhibitors market their shows one way or another before the event, hoping to get new leads, while 72% use social media to reach attendees.

About 82% of trade show attendees attend to buy products, while 79% believe their visit encouraged them to make purchases.

Also, customers are more likely to purchase goods after seeing them exhibited at trade shows, while attendees are more likely to check a company’s website after meeting them at a trade show. 92% of trade show attendees visit to see new products.

Did Trade Shows Recover from COVID-19?

Did Trade Shows Recover from COVID-19?

To answer this question, let’s look at the numbers. According to this survey, these are the average numbers of local, national, and international exhibitions attended by executives between 2015 and 2022.

Pay attention to 2020 and 2021, the years the virus had a great impact.


From the figures, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the trade shows industry, as expected. However, the statistics so far from 2022 show that the industry has picked up brilliantly and can be said to have recovered.

Did This Change the Attendance Makeup?

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021 severely affected the attendance of trade shows, but by the end of 2022, it seems that trade show attendance numbers reflects a full recovery.

A key question is, did the COVID-19 pandemic change the makeup of trade show attendance – are the same target groups attending? Or are other new visitors reflected in the number of people attending?

The number of trade shows was also severely reduced due to restrictions on movement.

How Can You Use This Data to Better Prepare for Your Next Trade Show?

How Can You Use This Data to Better Prepare for Your Next Trade Show?

Although trade show attendance has dropped a bit, no thanks to the pandemic, there’s still so much room to make an impact, and there are still many reasons to attend.

The trade show attendance trends and statistics above suggest that you can make a success of your trade shows if you promote them and are ready to follow up on your leads. Also, using social media is critical in promoting your trade shows, and you should be prepared to offer freebies.

Organizing a trade show isn’t easy—it involves many complex parts and making a success out of one requires lots of effort. But is it profitable? There’s only one answer.

If you organize it well, the benefits are enormous. You have no better way of attracting new local customers than through a trade show.

And with the benefits of social media marketing, you can even attract new customers from far away as well.

 What Markets to Aim For

When organizing your trade shows, aim for the correct demographic. This is because not all attendees have intentions of making purchases.

Look for trade shows that offer access to your target audience. For example, if you are a publisher, you want trade show attendance that includes academics and researchers.

What Tradeshows to Aim For

Aim for trade shows that have lots of attendees. Industry trade shows are often closed to the public. If you’re in a niche industry, always go for trade shows that offer the maximum number of attendees.

Who Should Be Your Market?

Target people that can make purchases. Use social media to reach out to those that can offer the most returns. Also, don’t forget to follow up on your leads with calls and emails.

Does Bigger Attendance Mean Bigger Profits for Exhibitors?

No, not always.

This is because trade shows attract lots of people, including those who want to review products. However, the bigger the number of attendees, the greater your chances of making a profit.

To make the greatest profit, you should promote your booth, offer freebies, and follow up on your leads through calls and emails. 

As an exhibitor, you need all the information you can get to make your next trade show successful.


At a trade show, various businesses are located in a single venue for the convenience of the attendees. Attendees attend for different reasons, but you need to attract people who can make purchases either now or in the future.

Because the products exhibited at trade shows are often new, some attendees visit to get the latest products or new services that better meet their needs.

The trade shows industry is known to make about $13.2 billion each year, and it’s still growing. Exhibiting your products and attracting the right people is a great way to improve your business.

 That’s not to claim that organizing a trade show is easy. It involves many complex parts and making a success out of it requires lots of effort, which is why many people prefer to stay away altogether.

But is it profitable? There’s only one answer. If you organize it well, the benefits are enormous. You have no better way of attracting new local customers than through a trade show.

And with the benefits of social media marketing, you can even attract new customers from far away as well.