The Adapting Trade Show Format

April 17, 2016

Nope, conventions and trade events are not dead

Steve Multer creates personal connections with hundreds o potential clients at a time to increase A-level leads and drive interest in the client's solutions and services

Trade Shows are alive and well despite growing pains

For two decades industry pundits and analysts have predicted the “death of the trade show,” touting the popular model’s demise as a direct result of its own inflated budgets, ineffective sales results, and horizontal lack of focus across industries. And for twenty years those naysayers have been proven dead wrong. Not only have trade shows survived, they’ve flourished, becoming more targeted, vertical, practical, and affordable to meet the shifting strategies they serve in this new market economy.

That said, trade shows look very different today than they did even five years ago. Despite their gloomy outlooks, those doomed prophesiers did get one thing correct; spending on live events has changed, but mostly for the better.

A new market

Trade show budgets continue to tighten as expectations for impact from those budgets rise. Contrary to mass opinion that’s actually a good thing; marketing departments gnash their teeth yet the job still gets done, and for far less money than it did even as recently as 2006 during the heady years following the crash of 2001-2002. Today we spend less, get more, and the trade show lives on to fight another day.

As a professional trade show presenter and on-camera host, I speak at and walk through a wide variety of live events every month, across sectors, across the country, and around the world. Each outing, my company and I see innovative methodologies coming online, intelligently deployed to boost brand impact with less spend, promoting creativity over standardization and practicality over bloat.

The media is on board 

And of course where the market goes, the media is never far behind. Resources like the Trade Show News Network ( are chock-a-block with in-the-trenches advice and expertise dedicated to supporting event marketing professionals and c-level show management executives with improved and adaptive live event strategies.

A recent favorite post came from the keyboard of Oren Ezra, CMO at Pepperi, who detailed the 7 deadliest trade show sins in an entertaining and useful diatribe-cum-checklist that focused heavily on maximizing investment while trimming unnecessary costs. One of my favorite lines is “Don’t waste money on things that will distract people from your message.”

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Successful Meetings posted a great piece by Matt Alderton on the cost-effective potential for Mobile Marketing at trade shows without overspending on the latest trends: “When it comes to crafting digital offerings, “cutting-edge” isn’t always the best choice: The largest percentage of attendees wait for technology to mainstream before trying something new.”

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On B2B Community, Mandy Movahhed lays out 8 Guidelines for Effective Trade Show Signs, a reasoned, intelligent primer for smarter investment that defies printing booth and event signage in the same old outdated ways. For example, “Booths can be very expensive, so it’s important to make sure you get the most mileage out of your more permanent booth materials. Using the same booth for multiple years, across several trade shows, helps keep your per-show cost down.”

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Attendees in Dubai want to get involved

Smart trade show investment means connecting more and spending less

I could list a hundred articles and blogs in the last six months alone, each suggesting ways to trim budget, improve efficiency, and restructure your trade show spend on a multitude of fronts. But these aggregate publications combine to point up one clear reality; the trade show is alive and well, thank you very much. And those helming the marketing for their valued brands at a myriad of live events worldwide have real faith in the model and its future.

The reason for their greater optimism is clear – if the effort didn’t pay off it would have ended long ago as the pundits predicted. Luckily for all of us their crystal ball was cloudy at best. It wasn’t death those analysts foresaw, it was change. Still scary, but not exactly proof of imminent demise.