what is a trade show

What is a trade show?

A trade show, often referred to as an exhibition in the UK, is an event that brings businesses within a particular industry together, allowing them to showcase their products and services to members of the trade, the public or other businesses. The major shows are typically held in large exhibition venues like the London ExCel, but there are also smaller ones held in sports grounds, hotels or office buildings.

Exhibitors at a trade show hire a space, install a stand with their company branding and aim to connect and engage with visitors.  Shows typically last several days and will follow a programme of events involving speeches from industry leaders, seminars or demonstrations that visitors can attend. They may also include awards ceremonies or networking events and have workshops where visitors can get involved with industry processes.

There are trade shows for almost every industry, from fashion to food and drink, engineering to medical science. Whatever industry your business exists in you are bound to find an exhibition or trade show for your business.

Exhibiting at a trade show is an excellent way for businesses to form new connections with customers, suppliers and other businesses in the industry. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 86 per cent of show attendees have buying power, yet 85 per cent had not been called on by a salesperson before the show. Decision-makers can be notoriously hard to reach through traditional forms of marketing, while a trade show brings these decision-makers together while they are in ‘buying mode’.

In 2020, during the Covid 19 pandemic, the majority of trade shows were postponed or cancelled. Some shows switched to a virtual event format, in which businesses were able to exhibit in a virtual space and attendees could visit each stand online and interact with the business via messaging.

While this switch to digital was necessary for upholding lockdown regulations and social distancing, it ultimately could not match the benefits of a face-to-face event and failed to take off.

What is the purpose of a Trade Show?

So why exhibit at a trade show? Exhibiting at a trade show can bring many benefits including:

  • Lead Generation – Trade show attendees are there because they are looking for something. They are shopping around for new opportunities, so they will be in buying mode. Even if they don’t buy immediately you will have the opportunity to take their details to add to your CRM system for future marketing efforts.
  • Make sales – With a massive number of attendees with buying power all under one roof you have the perfect opportunity to cut out the middle men and sell your products or services directly to the people who make the decision to buy.
  • Brand Awareness – A trade show offers the chance to showcase your brand within your industry. Nowhere else brings together so many individuals and businesses within an industry all under one roof and exhibiting allows you to put your brand in front of all of them.
  • Opportunity to launch a product – A trade show is the perfect setting to launch a business or new product in front of a captive and highly engaged audience.
  • Network – At a trade show you will have the opportunity to meet others within your industry, including businesses who can solve some of the problems your business faces. You may be able to source new partners or supply channels and, because many businesses offer discounts while exhibiting, you could also make some great savings.
  • Assess the competition – A trade show is a unique opportunity to see for yourself exactly what your competition is doing. You’ll be able to see what products your competitors are launching, how they operate and their marketing messages. You’ll also be able to see how visitors react to them, which may offer ideas of where to take your business in the future.
  • Gain Knowledge – The majority of trade shows offer a full schedule of talks, seminars, demonstrations and workshops led by industry leaders who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in your industry.
  • Meet customers face-to-face – A trade show offers a great opportunity to meet with your existing customers and strengthen those relationships in a face-to-face setting. You may even be able to sell them additional products or services.
  • Gather feedback– Customers are more likely to provide valuable honest feedback in a face-to-face setting. Trade shows present an opportunity for live feedback on your products and services from both your existing customers and potential new customers. This can inform your business and help to improve your products, services, processes or marketing; to name just a few.
Exhibition stand at UK show in Birmingham

Exhibition stand at UK show in Birmingham

What is a trade show booth?

A trade show booth, more typically referred to in the UK as an exhibition stand, is the branded structure on which your team stand and meet with visitors at the show.

This is the primary tool that companies use to draw the attention of visitors and attract them to speak to their staff. Exhibition stands come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be made from all kinds of materials.

What do you need to exhibit at a trade show?

In order to exhibit at a trade show you need to take the following steps:

  • Request the floorplan from the show organiser and choose the space you would like to book. Some spaces will receive a higher level of footfall than others, so do this as early as possible in order to get the best space. These spaces tend to be at busy intersections, near the entrance or near to services like restaurants and toilets.
  • Design an eye-catching exhibition stand to draw the attention of visitors. If you plan to exhibit at more than one show it is worth investing in a modular stand that can be re-used for future shows. These are simple to assemble yourself without the need for power tools and can easily be packed away and stored, then reconfigured for your next show.
  • Choose your trade show staff – The staff you choose to represent your brand on your exhibition stand must be well-dressed, friendly and approachable to make a good impression on visitors. They will also need to be knowledgeable enough to talk confidently to visitors about your products or services.
  • Make travel and hotel bookings– If your staff are travelling for the trade show you will need to make travel arrangements or book hotels. The earlier you can do this the better if you want to save money.
  • Do some pre-show marketing – Email your customers and prospects to let them know of your attendance at the show and arrange meetings with any who are also attending. You should promote your attendance on social media and make sure you link up with the pages and hashtags being used by the show organiser.
  • Source marketing materials – Make sure you have brochures or flyers and arrange for some branded promotional items to have on the stand to give out to prospects.

What are the costs of exhibiting at a trade show?

Exhibiting at a trade show represents a significant investment for a small or medium-sized company. The larger shows will charge more for floor space than smaller shows.  The typical costs of exhibitions include:

  • Floor space – Your floor space costs will be around £300-£350 per square metre.
  • Stand – To buy a basic stand will be a minimum of around £4000 but can be almost limitless depending on the size, features and complexity of the stand you choose.
  • Hotels and food – approx. £150 per person per day.
  • Travel – approx. £100 per person.
  • Hiring furniture – up to around £500.
  • Hiring AV equipment – around £500.
  • Promotional items – £300 upwards.

Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to showcase your business and products to your individual industry.  They bring many benefits including lead generation, brand awareness and networking.

To make the most of the opportunities trade shows present and achieve a good return on investment (ROI) you have to plan carefully and allocate your budget well.  For help planning your next trade show call us on 01202 723 500 or email design@quadrant2design.com.