Recently while talking with a highly accomplished marketing executive, he said something that got me thinking: “Some of our clients post COVID are going to ask, what’s the point of trade shows?”

What Jon and I were discussing was COVID-19’s impact on the event and trade show industry. Companies are going to ask a lot of questions about what the landscape is going to look like when shows return, but what they really want to know is “What is the point of trade shows and are they worth it?” 

We get it. Trade shows are expensive. Measuring their ROI is incredibly difficult. Having the team out of the office may take away from in-office priorities. Right?

So really, what makes trade shows worth the time and cost?

Captive, Captive, Captive Attention

If you work in sales or marketing, you know getting and keeping your audience’s attention is next to impossible, especially more than one person at a time! Using things like phone calls, video meetings, email, and social media for sales leaves you grinding for days, months, and even years. Trade shows are still the single best event to get in front of a captive audience, but not just any audience. These are the buyers and clients you care most about, AND they come to the show with purpose, an open mind to learn, and to BUY! Successful sales is all about being in front of the right person at the right time, and trade shows are full of the right people who have put themselves in front of you and are serious enough to have even paid money to be there. Even digital marketing agencies agree face-to-face communication tops digital avenues.

It’s Your Super Bowl!

Trade shows are your opportunity to stand side-by-side with your competitors and others in your industry and show off who your brand is and what you have to say. It’s a celebration of your brand: your awesome product offerings and your kick-ass team! Don’t forget that this is also an opportunity for your customers to see the faces behind the brand.

The Super Bowl isn’t JUST about the game though, right? Trade shows are also a great opportunity to get the pulse of your industry, see what new products and tech are launching, and for team bonding. A team that goes through the planning and execution processes of a trade show is going to be a stronger, tighter, and probably more efficient team.

Science says Humans Need Connection for Happiness

They say business is done with a smile and a handshake. While science does agree, there’s a little more to it than that. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems” but they also caution “Wi-Fi alone isn’t enough to fulfill our social needs – we need face-to-face interaction to thrive. Technology should be enhancing our connection to others, not replacing it.” Attending trade shows and other face-to-face events is literally good for our health.

Get Smarter and inspired

One of the major draws of trade shows is the educational opportunities. If you’re in a profession that requires continuing education, you can often knock out all those CE credits for the year at ONE event (for example, EXHIBITORLIVE 2021 currently has over 170 sessions and workshops scheduled over the five days of the show). Many of the classes you can find at trade shows often aren’t offered online, and even if they are you’re faced with all of those daily life distractions. Nothing beats the experience of sitting in a room of like-minded people getting better at your craft.

Duh, Networking

Trade shows are networking events on steroids! Because trade shows are generally industry-specific, it’s a safe assumption that everyone in attendance is connected to your industry and looking to connect with other people in the industry. Many times they’re even broadcasting who they are and what they’re looking for! I’d take that networking opportunity over the local monthly industry meetup with mostly the same people every month.

The difference maker – Company Culture Building

Trade shows are monstrously good at culture building for companies BECAUSE they are energizing  and exciting! If you’ve been to a trade show, you know once that show closes for the day it’s all about the after party. Have you attended a virtual event or office function back home that had the Rolling Stones playing live and your favorite athletes running around?? Allowing your team that amazing time and great memories together is a way better bonding opportunity than they’re ever going to find in the office or at happy hour.

So What IS the Point?

Going back to Jon’s original question of what’s the point and do you really want to go back to it, I’d say there’s a lot of point to face-to-face trade shows that virtual events and digital marketing just can’t replicate, the biggest being the human connection that we all need.

Do I really want to go back to it? I can’t wait to safely see you in Vegas with an enthusiastic smile and handshake.