The Year in Trade Show Marketing & What It Means For You


Even though the recession is officially over and has been for quite some time, it’s still common to hear marketers tiptoeing around the topic. Many treat event marketing as a luxury that they can’t yet add back into the budget, assuming that visitors just aren’t going to events and trade shows anymore in this economy. It’s understandable, but a recent report shows that this attitude isn’t based in fact!

IAEE report findingsThe international Association of Exhibitions and Events released its Public Events Industry Report for 2014 at the beginning of this month, and numbers are generally up, up, up. Any hesitancy you have about event marketing and the strength of this marketing channel should be put to bed for good with these numbers!

Major Report Takeaways

The full report is lengthy, but the important thing to know is that growth is happening in almost every sector hosting trade shows and events. A great example of this robust growth is the fact that new events were launched in every single sector (22 sectors in total), for the first time ever. So don’t let anyone tell you that your sector isn’t ready for growth!

IAEE logoThe report tracks the expectations and goals of respondents, and compares them with actual results. Attendance continues to be a major concern for producers, and it’s true that 23% reported lower attendance than 2013. Still, that’s hardly a majority, so most shows are still reporting positive growth in attendance for 2014. Respondents mentioned technology and connecting with millennial event-goers as their top concerns for the next year.

What You Should Be Doing

What do these findings mean for your business? Are there any adjustments you could make in light of the new numbers and results? Here are my suggestions:

1.  Don’t just sign up for the same shows every year without shopping around.

I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it: businesses that have their one or two events a year, and they attend every year and won’t bother with other shows. Now that we know for sure that all sectors are adding new events, you should really be checking into these new tradeshows and determining if they’re a good fit for you. You might not hear about them organically since new events have a lower profile, so go out and find more information yourself!

2.  Brainstorm ways to draw in more traffic, in case attendance is down.

New tradeshows and eventsIn reality, most trade shows are reporting attendance increases, but plan for the worst case scenario. If total traffic is down, you’re going to need to draw in a higher percentage of the traffic that does come by. Whether it’s a new theme, a fun gimmick or some free samples, brainstorm with others to decide on a plan for gathering more leads at your events.

3.  Plan to incorporate technology that appeals to millennials in your trade show display.

This isn’t a passing fad or even a gimmick at this point – incorporating interactive technology is a proven way to draw in visitors, and more and more of your visitors every year will be millennials (also called Gen Y). You can’t afford to miss out on this huge demographic.


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