Marketing Review

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Are Successful Trade Shows A Dying Breed?

Every year, attendees and exhibitors at events both large and small whisper to each other about the death of the trade show, asking each other whether these large, industry specific events are going the way of the dinosaurs. In fact, some conventions and events are rather like dinosaurs – they’re overly large, they lumber along in predictable ways, and they haven’t adapted to today’s environment. But there are others that are thriving and even growing. In fact, despite an overall drop in attendance over the last decade for many shows, there are others that have thrived. In 2012, overall attendance was up slightly, indicating that these events haven’t breathed their last. But why are so many of them suffering and what can be done about it?

A Trend Toward Social Media And Away From Trade Show Stands

Social media is taking the marketplace by storm. Many marketing organizations are investing more money every year in creating a presence online using Facebook, blogs, Twitter and a host of other social media resources that give them immediate feedback and strong interaction with their customers. This leaves less money for trade show stands and other elements of a strong event presence. It’s a shame, because they are losing the face-to-face factor that can’t be reproduced on any monitor or touch screen.

Lackluster Performance

It’s hard to reinvent the wheel, and event planners know it’s just as difficult to reinvent trade show stands. They’ve been on the scene for decades and it’s becoming harder every year for companies to find a new way to present their brand in a fresh and inviting way. The results are often dismal, with companies unsure of why they didn’t get the results they were hoping for. In many cases, the fault isn’t with the stands themselves. It’s actually poor targeting. Some companies continue to attend the same shows year after year, despite changes in the attendance demographics or a shift in their own targeted audience. Add in lower attendance and you’ve got a dual problem – fewer visitors at your display with those visitors irrelevant to a company’s goal.

Mega-Shows Overshadowing Smaller Vendors

You used to be able to attend several regional events each year that were a great fit for small to medium sized businesses, but in some parts of the country this is no longer the case. Mega-shows that feature literally hundreds of exhibitors on the trade show floor are more popular and have, in some cases, swallowed up the smaller, regional venues. It’s difficult for small or medium sized businesses to compete in this environment. Even the most interesting and attractive pop-up display can’t compete with the elaborate, multi-level, interactive displays of international companies, leaving them lost in the crowd.

Turning Things Around On The Trade Show Floor

Despite the opinion of many that trade show stands are no longer a wise investment in today’s economic environment, there are ways to turn around your performance at conferences and other industry events.

1. Turn each event into a learning opportunity for your company. While trained employees work your booth, send a few others out to interact with the competition and other vendors. Getting the pulse of prospective customers may not have immediate, measurable results, but it can give you greater insight into the changing needs of your clients.

2. Tie social media such as FourSquare, Twitter and Facebook to your exhibit so that attendees will be fired up and will actively seek out your trade show stands.

3. Use interactive elements that reinforce your company identity and let visitors know you’re on the cutting edge of technology. This is the electronic generation, so integrate tablets and smart phones into your exhibit.

4. Be more selective about which events you attend. If you’ve been attending the same events year after year, it may be time to shake things up. Pare down the list to two or three regional events and one larger one, then tailor your tactics to fit each demographic more precisely.

Is it worth your company’s time to revamp how you look at today’s trade shows? Absolutely. Handled properly, you can learn more about your target audience, reinforce your brand identity and meet qualified buyers and decision makers while those around you continue to wonder why their trade show stands are no longer performing.

Skyline Event Services is a leader in creating innovative designs for Cleveland trade show stands ( that continue to draw crowds at events of all sizes. To order their free catalogue of trade show design options, visit

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