A trade show is an event where businesses exhibit their products and services to others in the same industry.  They are attended by professionals and business people from the same industry hoping to source products, exchange ideas and gather information.  Trade shows and exhibitions are held throughout the country in exhibition venues, such as the NEC in Birmingham and Olympia in London to name a few.  So, what is there exactly to do at a trade show?

1. Visit the stands

There will be a huge number of stands to visit at a show, each offering different products and services.  If you are looking for a particular product there will be plenty of options to choose from, most companies within the industry will be represented there.  For instance, at CHSI Stitches, the UK’s biggest craft fair held at the NEC in September, there are over 200 exhibitors showcasing over 100,000 products.  That should be enough to keep you busy!

Many businesses will use a trade show to launch new products or services, so it will give you the chance to see new product innovations before the public do.

Some exhibitors will be offering exclusive discounts at the show which could save you money.  You can also gain information by talking to experts on each stand, for instance at the Homebuilding and Renovating Show taking place at Excel in September, you can meet experts from all areas of the industry which may help you along with your own project.


Modular Exhibition Stand

2. See the latest trends in the industry

Many companies will feature new products and innovations so this will give you an idea of where things are going in the industry.  See what works for competitors and what doesn’t.  Witness the products that draw the crowds, it may give you inspiration for your business.  Lunch! An event for the food-to-go sector, taking place at Excel in September, is one of several trade shows to feature a start-up area where you can sample the latest offerings from new suppliers in the industry.

3. Listen to speakers

There will be keynote talks and presentations given by key professionals within the industry.  These are held in separate rooms at the venue and often require you to register as space will be limited.  Make sure you purchase a show catalogue as this will tell you the timetable.  Depending on the industry, some events feature talks given by celebrities.  For instance, The Ideal Home Show, held at Olympia in March 2022, has Alan Titchmarsh, Lisa Snowdon, John Torode and Richard Arnold giving presentations.

4. Attend workshops/networking sessions

There will often be workshops you can sign up for.  These will allow you to get hands on and acquire new skills.  The Cake and Bake Show, taking place at Excel in October, features donut making sessions and a build your own cheesecake workshop.

Or there will be networking sessions which are generally free to attend.  The 5G World, taking place at Excel in September, includes several networking sessions within its programme of speakers.

5. Watch product demonstrations

Product demonstrations will occur on the individual stands and in break out rooms.  Many companies will be showcasing their products in an attempt to draw in the crowds.  Some trade shows feature demonstrations as part of their programme.  For instance, at the Food and Drink Expo you can watch celebrity chefs cooking up a storm.  And Imbibe Live features drink tastings.

Other events now really go to town and feature arenas where demonstrations take place in the form of live shows.  At Makers Central, held in the NEC in August, stars from TV’s Robot Wars will be performing with robots in a central arena three times a day for visitors.  You can also meet the robots and their makers.  Another exhibitor will be demonstrating a state of the art virtual reality flying vehicle, inspired by futuristic flying cars in films like Blade Runner, Star Wars and Fifth Element.

The National Wedding Show which is taking place at venues across the country features catwalk displays of the latest bridal gowns for visitors to watch.

6. Arrange to meet others in the industry

A trade show is the perfect opportunity to arrange to meet with others in the same industry who are also attending the event.  You are all in one place so why not meet up.  Maintain relationships with customers or suppliers, you never know where the next deal might come from.  Trade shows have restaurant and café areas where you can sit down, or there will be a variety of restaurants around the venue.

7. Collect freebies

This shouldn’t be a reason to attend a trade show but we all love the free mouse mats, coffee cups and memory sticks given out at these events. Companies are looking to get their name in front of you so many will be offering free promotional items, you could come away with quite a swag bag.

There is generally a lot going on at a trade show these days, with plenty of reasons to attend.  Remember to book tickets in advance as spaces may be limited, especially in these post-pandemic, socially distanced times.