what is a trade show

A trade show is an event that brings together businesses within a particular industry so that they can showcase their products and services to members of the trade, the public or other businesses.  The major shows are held in large exhibition halls, such as London Excel, but you can also get smaller ones held in sports grounds or hotels.

Exhibitors hire a space at the venue, install a stand with their company branding, and aim to connect and engage with visitors.  The show lasts several days and will follow a programme of events involving speeches from industry leaders, seminars or demonstrations that visitors can attend.  They may host awards or networking events and some have workshops involving discussions or activities based around an industry theme.

A trade show exists for almost any industry – from fashion to food and drink, you are bound to find an appropriate show for your business.  Look in directories like Eventseye to find a trade show linked to your industry.

Exhibiting at a trade show is an excellent way to find customers to help your business grow. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 86 percent of show attendees were the decision-maker or influenced buying decisions, yet 85 percent had not been called on by a salesperson before the show.

The Covid pandemic put a stop to all live events so most trade shows switched to a virtual model in 2020.  Businesses were still able to exhibit in a virtual space and attendees could visit each stand online and interact with the business via messaging.  While these events were better than nothing, they can’t really substitute the benefits of attending a live event.

What is the Purpose of a Trade Show?

Exhibiting at a trade show can bring many benefits to a business such as:

  • Lead Generation – trade show attendees are there because they are looking for something, 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 so many attendees who have buying power under one roof you have the perfect opportunity to sell your products or services.
  • 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.
  • Opportunity to launch a product – a trade show is the perfect setting to launch a business or new product in front of a captive audience.
  • Network – you will have the opportunity to meet others within your industry, you may even source new partners or supply channels.
  • Assess the competition – see what products they are launching and how visitors react to them. It may give you ideas of where to take your business in the future.
  • Gain Knowledge – from the talks and presentations by industry leaders.
  • Meet customers face-to-face – a trade show offers a great opportunity to meet up with your existing customers, you may be able to sell them additional products or services.
  • Gather feedback – trade shows present an opportunity for live feedback on your products and services.
Exhibition stand at UK show in Birmingham

Exhibition stand at UK show in Birmingham

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 or near services like restaurants and toilets. Locating your stand near the entrance may also bring advantages.
  • 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 ready for the next show.
  • Choose the staff to take – they must be knowledgeable enough to talk confidently to visitors about your products.
  • Make travel and hotel bookings for your staff – 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, arrange meetings with any who are also attending. Broadcast your attendance on social media, 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.

Trade Show Expenses

Exhibiting at a trade show represents a significant investment for a small or medium sized company. The larger shows will charge more for floorspace than smaller shows but you are looking at needing a budget of at least £6000.  The costs are:

  • Floorspace – will be around £300-£350 per square metre.
  • Stand – To buy a basic stand will be around £4000 but you can spend a lot more on an eye-catching bespoke stand.
  • Hotels and food – £150 per person per day.
  • Travel – £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.  But to make a success of it 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 designteam@quadrant2design.com.