In an increasingly digital world, trade shows are currently thriving. It’s not so surprising when you think about it: trade shows provide the kind of face-to-face, hand-to-hand business transactions that both industry and their consumer base still crave, in spite of—or perhaps because of—the prevalence of digital and mobile communication. In fact, when it comes to companies’ willingness to spend on marketing, trade shows rank second, behind only digital campaigns. Trade shows may even be the sole salvager of physical collateral—pamphlets, flyers, etc.—even while they move apace with advancements in technology, so as to keep themselves relevant. In this regard, trade shows may provide a map for how to bridge the gap between the old-school way of doing business and the future.
The main value that trade shows offer is their ability to foster relationships that drive positive outcomes between businesses and clients, while also building up strong industry communities. This has always been true of trade shows, as has their ability to connect those communities to the trends outside of their immediate spheres, so as to allow them to adapt to technological and cultural changes, instead of falling behind them and having to play catch-up.
Indeed, rather than being made obsolete by advances in communication technology, trade shows have been able to implement them, so as to enhance their overall experience. Live streaming video allows people to ‘attend’ shows that they otherwise may have missed without ever leaving their home or office, as well as giving speakers the chance to give speeches and presentations to attendees where previously they would have been unable to. Meanwhile, video displays, touch screen monitors, and even VR technology have become more prevalent at individual booths, which invites deeper engagement with clients, and gives a fuller product or service experience than ever before.
Even as trade shows across industries—auto, retail, tech, industrial, electronics—are quick to adapt to change, their inherent value remains the same. A study conducted by the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR) found that 85% of trade show attendees ended up being the decision maker when it came to purchasing decision. That same 85% had not been contacted by a sales person previous to the show where they had connected. That same study also found that the closing cost for a sale that beings with contact being made at a trade show runs at only half the cost of sales that don’t begin there. This is the exhibition advantage.
Another factor that shouldn’t be overlooked: trade shows can be fun. While successful ones never fail to put business first, they also provide a break from the daily grind, and often use entertainment to enhance the experience. One of the biggest trade show events of every year, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), held at the Anaheim Convention Center, brings together musicians, manufacturers, stores and brands. It can seem almost more like a concert than a trade show; but make no mistake, there is big business getting done at it. This year saw its attendance grow to over 100,000.
Of course, not every trade show has that same atmosphere, but the best ones do create an air of excitement. There is simply no better venue than trade shows in which professionals can connect with one another to help shape their industry, all while making the connections and sales with clients that will help their individual businesses grow and thrive.