Trade Show Planning: Where is the best show?

If you have been given the responsibility of marketing your organization’s products and/or services at a trade show, and you’re a novice at the task, it may not take long before you feel overwhelmed by the prospect. Where should you go? What kind of events should you attend? Clearly you need to decide on the type and size of your typical show before you investigate trade show booth ideas – there are so many different types of trade shows out there, how do you decide which type is right for you and your organization? To answer that question, it’s necessary to ensure that you understand the difference between, let’s say a table top expo, an international trade show, and the others that fall somewhere in between the two.

2n1_both-resized-600So, let’s look at the different types of events out there. The least expensive trade show is the table top expo because these tend to be very local in nature. Often sponsored by a community organization or chamber of commerce, it is possible to exhibit at a table top expo for a few hundred dollars. You will not get a targeted audience for your organization at one of these expos, but you will gain additional exposure among the members of the chamber or the association sponsoring the event. In addition, these table top expos are often organized around an educational seminar or roundtable discussion. If the seminar fits your organization, and if you are able to become part of the seminar or discussion, you may see increased interest in your organization as a result of your participation in the seminar. Clients most often use fabric or folding brief case style table top displays that can be set up in seconds.

The next step up from the table top expo is the regional trade show. These shows are budget-conscious, smaller versions of national trade shows. Regional trade shows are often part a nationwide trade show tour. Although many regional trade shows will offer seminars, very few of them will offer networking events. If seminars are important to your organization, regional trade shows may be right ellipse_main-resized-600for you. But, if you’re looking for some networking opportunities, these regional trade shows are probably not a good fit. You will find that the attendee net stretches farther out than it does for a table top expo, but most attendees at a regional trade show will be within driving distance of the event. Displays for these type of shows are typically simple 8ft wide or 10ft wide display stands.

It is possible to exhibit at a trade show and never leave the office. Virtual (online) trade shows are becoming more popular, although they lack the personal interaction so prevalent in traditional trade shows that they will likely never replace the “real thing.” On the designated show date, an interactive venue opens up online and attendees click on the areas they are interested in seeing. Exhibitors receive alerts when an attendee “enters” their booths, and, through online chat sessions, the exhibitor and the attendee can share information.

If you are looking for a multitude of activities and business-to-business opportunities, then you are probably in the market for a national trade show. Organizations from across the country travel to these events to participate and exhibit their products and services. At national trade shows you will find many educational seminars and networking events, presentations of industry awards, and keynote speeches given by business leaders, celebrities and comedians. These shows can be very large, with hundreds or more exhibitors, and thousands of attendees, and the optimal trade show display or backdrop varies with the size of the show, size of your booth, type of market and product, etc.

For businesses looking to expand outside the U.S., an international trade show is a viable marketing option. Deciding to attend an international trade show is more about building relationships with other businesses or organizations that can help you grow in that area than it is about individual sales. If you are looking for help with regional distribution or marketing in another country, then attending an international trade show in that area would be a good first step. Trade show booth ideas and planning need to include the cost of shipping your booth and products overseas, as well as customs fees, which can quickly add to the costs of exhibiting at international shows – check one out as an attendee before making the larger investment of exhibiting at the show.

As you can see, there are a variety of different types of trade shows out there. We’ve really only begun to scratch the surface as to what makes each different from the other, but at least you’ve got a starting point for your search. We’ll continue this discussion in the next post.

For more, read about the simplest way to supercharge your trade show planning or our general trade show planning tips.

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