Is exhibiting at trade shows worth the time, effort, and financial cost? After taking a break from trade shows in 2020, you may be wondering whether it makes sense to attend live events again. The simple answer is: If it was worth it before, then it’s still worth it now to exhibit in person. The same benefits still apply, and live events have some advantages over virtual events that can’t be ignored.
What Do You Get Out of Exhibiting at a Trade Show?
Trade shows are worth attending, thanks to the wide range of potential advantages. But it’s important to attend the right shows because your choice of event determines the audience you get. Making the wrong choice means exhibiting to an audience who may be working in your industry but isn’t interested in doing business with you. Choose the right shows, and you get access to a niche audience full of potential clients and customers, and plenty of other benefits.
Introduce Your Product or Business in a Show-Stopping Way
Whether you’re a startup with a unique idea or an existing business with a new product line, trade shows offer the ideal environment for a launch. With an innovative idea and an engaging demo, even small companies can attract plenty of interest. In addition, many shows have special awards for new products, or perks for startups, such as reduced floor fees. These offer further opportunities for attracting attention and sales.
Interact Directly with Your Audience
Having a good understanding of your audience is one of the most important keys to success. At trade shows, you have what is often a unique and rare opportunity: Meeting and talking with lots of people from your target audience. You get:
- Highly valuable feedback about your booth and product offerings
- The chance to generate new leads and new sales
- The chance to make new industry contacts
Find Invaluable Networking Opportunities
One of the main reasons that many companies attend trade shows is for networking. Whether it’s to generate leads or sales, meet new people in the industry, or improve existing business relationships, trade shows are popular and effective networking locations. Large, well-attended shows might have more opportunities in number, but a highly curated smaller trade show can provide lots of valuable opportunities too.
See What Your Competitors Are Doing
When you exhibit at a trade show, most of your focus is naturally on your own booth and your target audience. Still, most people have some time in their schedule to scope out the competition. Trade shows provide a great opportunity to do just that. Many companies use shows as a place to launch new product lines or reveal exciting news, giving you the perfect opportunity to see just how they do it.
Similarly, attending trade shows gives you the chance to see what’s happening in the wider industry. Are the big names pivoting to new target markets or launching product lines that are new to the industry? Learning about new trends early on gives you the best chance of benefiting from them, and there’s no better way to find out than first-hand.
Get Exposure and Publicity
Most trade shows, even smaller niche events, get written up in industry-specific publications. And the bigger shows—especially tech and consumer-focused shows—tend to get lots of press, in general as well as special-interest websites and print magazines. If you’re able to get a mention in a story, or even an interview with a journalist, the free publicity can pay off—big-time.
Sending out a press release can help increase your chances of getting event-related coverage. Press releases stick to a formula, making them relatively simple to write—so it’s an easy way to improve your chances of getting some media coverage. Find our guide for writing a trade show press release here.
Social media provides even more opportunities to maximize your exposure. Attendees and other exhibitors are tweeting and sharing pictures of booths on Instagram and LinkedIn, and people are searching for event-related news. You should absolutely add your voice in the mix! Even if your company is a small one, there’s no reason you can’t be part of the larger event story.
Are Trade Shows Still Worth It After the Last Year?
With live events on pause for over a year due to the coronavirus, virtual events have experienced a big surge in popularity. Many people are now wondering whether it’s worth going back to exhibiting at live shows, given that many of the same benefits apply to both kinds of events.
The fact is, when live events return, the benefits of exhibiting at a trade show will still be there. You’ll be able to attract attendees to view your exhibit and engage visitors them face to face. If you’re launching a new startup or a new product, you will still have the opportunity make a big impact. And, of course, the simplicity of networking at an in-person event will remain.
Even better, this new world offers increased opportunities for you to exhibit because virtual trade shows are open to you as well. In fact, when possible, it’s a good idea to have both a physical booth and a virtual one at the shows you attend. This is an option when you attend hybrid events, which incorporate elements of both in-person and virtual events.
A virtual exhibit can help you pull in even more leads during a show, as people who can’t attend in person can still visit your booth online. A virtual booth can also serve as an additional source of information for people who attend the live show. For instance, maybe someone can’t attend your live product demo but can view it online at the virtual booth, so nobody misses out on what you have to offer.
Best of all, your virtual exhibit can continue serving as a source of information—even leads—when the show is over. If the event host keeps the website live after the show, your booth may stay live too. If not, you can transfer the valuable information it contains to your own company website. A virtual exhibit on your company site may continue pulling in traffic and generating leads right up until next year’s show!
Overall, live trade shows are still highly desirable events. But virtual events are happening, and they’re increasing in importance. The best thing to do may be to have a presence in both spaces: in person and online.
You Should Have a Presence at Trade Shows
Although in-person trade shows took a back seat in 2020, there’s no doubt they’re still the best option for most exhibitors. The key to making a trade show pay is to make careful, well-informed choices about which shows to attend. That ensures you get the very best ROI.