Live events disappeared for most of 2020 and a chunk of 2021. Now, trade shows and live events are returning. The good news for trade show managers is that, as these shows open, attendees are returning, too. Consider that the Global Recovery Insights 2021 found that 72% of existing trade show attendees plan to attend trade fairs with the same or increased frequency as their pre-pandemic appearances, and 16% plan to attend much more frequently.
However, trade show managers also face the possibility that their favorite trade shows aren’t back yet. So, for many, the search for the right shows for their company begins anew. However, this may be a positive turn of events. Routinely reviewing the shows you attend is a good practice that helps ensure your company receives the best exposure and continues to earn a positive return on investment (ROI).
The Global Recovery Insights 2021 study also found that marketing decision-makers who did not attend trade shows before the pandemic are now committing to live events. During 2020, these marketers attended virtual industry events, became aware of their value, and now plan to exhibit at the live editions. However, logging in to a virtual event and exhibiting at an in-person show are vastly different. Often, those new to exhibiting head straight to the big-name shows, but that’s not necessarily the best option for their company.
For both seasoned trade show managers and newcomers, sifting through trade shows to find the right ones can be a rewarding process that results in a more substantial trade show program. Here are some tips for choosing the right trade shows as live events return.
Ensure that your vision aligns with the overall company vision
There are few things worse than implementing an exhibition plan only to discover – six months later – that the CFO had a drastically different vision.
One of the first steps to take is to check with the C-suite. Your goal is to gain insights into their expectations for the exhibit program and the company’s immediate future. Their vision for the upcoming year will likely help you find your target audience and impact the size of your trade shows.
Next, reach out to other departments and ask how the exhibit program can help them. Often, other department heads provide suggestions that help spur your creativity and steer your trade show program in creative directions.
Understand your budget
Since your events’ budget likely shifted in recent years, it’s time for a thorough review. Before committing to any show, you need to understand how show services, travel expenses, installation and dismantle (I&D), promotional material, shipping and drayage services, etc., will impact the bottom line.
It’s about balancing what’s on paper with the needs of your shows.
Gather Info about Potential Shows
It remains valuable to review industry literature thoroughly. You may uncover new (to you, anyway) regional shows or under-served areas where you could fill a niche. Online trade directories are an excellent place to start. Be sure to visit several sites since no single directory contains every possible trade show. Pay attention to dates and note any shows that overlap or are close together. Also, make a note of any hybrid shows that require a virtual trade show booth.
Gather Valuable Information from Your Customers
You don’t want to be a pest, but your customers are a valuable information resource, and by not using them, you are missing an opportunity.
When doing your internal investigation, ask each department which customers they believe would be willing to answer a brief survey about their trade show preferences, habits, and level of interest.
Of course, you may find that some departments are reluctant to leverage their relationship with a customer for a survey, which is why you may decide to simply take matters into your own hands and send out a company-wide emailer. You can either use your marketing savvy to whip up a questionnaire or hire an agency to conduct a formal survey.
Consolidate the Information into a Potential Trade Show List
Now, it’s time to merge the disparate pieces of information you gathered into a master spreadsheet. This list is not the shows you plan to attend; it is a group of possibilities.
Be sure to include columns for additional information that may come up, such as immediate competitors that exhibit at a show or clients that plan to attend.
Be thorough. Your efforts create a compendium of every valuable trade show to your company now or in the future.
Speak Directly to Show Organizers
Perhaps the best way to get a feel for a prospective show – and the pandemic’s impact on it – is to speak directly to the trade show organizers. Questions you could ask include:
- What is the show’s anticipated turnout for both attendees and exhibitors?
- What are your sanitization procedures?
- What is the total exhibit space?
- How much booth space is currently available? Where is it located on the show floor?
- What is the cost per square foot to exhibit? What happens to my payment if the show is postponed or canceled?
- Do you have a virtual exhibit hall? If so, what features are included?
- Are there any sponsorship opportunities?
- How many educational opportunities exist? How can my company participate?
- How is show management promoting the event?
- Is there a plan if the turnout for attendees or exhibitors doesn’t reach a certain threshold
Still need help choosing the right trade shows? Or, having found the right show, do you need help with the next step of securing an attractive trade show exhibit? Reach out below and talk with an expert.
The Trade Group is a full-service trade show and event marketing company. We will work with you to create an exhibit or an event that brings in leads and helps you achieve your business goals. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585.