To be honest, my best qualification for writing this post is the mistakes I’ve made. My lack of research and trial and error method of choosing shows has been costly. Too often, I would pick a show by throwing darts at the wall. Over the years, I learned to gather information from the show to surmise whether it was worthwhile to repeat, and eventually I added research as a pre-qualifier to show exhibition approval. Judging what shows are best for you and your corporation isn’t all about numbers. It’s not all cut and dried, but let’s start there.

Is the show cost effective?

To understand if the show is cost effective you need to first list every cost.

  • Cost of the show
  • Show expenses such as electricity, and set up fees charged by the event
  • Display cost, including collateral materials, and promotional products
  • Transportation, accommodations, food, and client entertainment
  • Payroll
  • Miscellaneous

Next you’ll need to determine traffic and lead generation. The best way to do this is to review the numbers from previous years at the same show. If it’s your first trip to the show, then compare it to similar size shows.

  • Traffic per hour
  • Leads generated per hour
  • Total leads generated during the show
  • Number of leads to create a sale
  • Total number of sales

Divide the total cost by total sales for the cost of show, and then compare the number to other forms of advertising. Is it cost effective?

Will it build your brand?

Ask and answer the following questions. Is it an established industry show? Will industry movers and shakers be in attendance? Will your absence from the show be viewed negatively by your industry? Will your target audience be exposed to your brand? Are there public relations opportunities? All of these considerations may make exhibiting at the show worthwhile regardless of immediate ROI (Return on Investment).

  • Review past attendance numbers. Remember, it’s not only how many but who
  • List competitors who are attending
  • List potential clients and vendors who are exhibiting or attending
  • Contact past exhibitors for advice and information

Are there educational opportunities for your staff?

Does the show offer the chance to train your staff? Are there industry expert speakers, trainers, and clinics? Would “walking the show” be an education for your people? Watching what competitors are doing, what’s new on the market, and viewing products can be valuable. Training your sales and marketing staff at a show can pay for itself. If education is the number one reason for attending the show,  you may not need to exhibit.

What show is best for you?

The best shows are cost effective, offer branding opportunities, and share industry education. You can’t beat a show that offers all three—cost effectiveness, branding, and education. However, it depends on your needs. If lead generation is the driving force, then crunch the numbers. If branding is top of the list, then learn who attends the show and what PR opportunities are available. And if it’s education, take the time to vet the trainers and speakers. What are your criteria for choosing trade shows?