Trade Show Decision Showdown

International Builders Show (IBS) and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show

Trade Show Decision Showdown

In the past two months, I’ve received 25+ invitations to attend 2022 international industry trade shows in North America, Europe, and Asia for our core market segments which include agriculture/horticulture, building/grounds maintenance, energy, and manufacturing.

Seems like trade shows are back, right?  Maybe not.

The 2022 Consumer Electronics Show – one of the world’s largest and most attended trade shows — was cut short by a day with many exhibitors canceling last minute. The combined 2022 International Builders Show (IBS) and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show had 30% fewer exhibitors and 40% fewer attendees.

It’s easy to attribute these drops to COVID-19; however, I suspect the issue may be deeper than that.  During the past two years, most corporations have been able to eliminate substantial trade show investments without negatively impacting sales. 

Are trade shows going to go away?  Probably not; however, it’s safe to assume new participation models, more rigorous evaluation metrics and a greater focus on increasing ROI will be even more important than they are now.

Participation Models – Traditional participation models involve large exhibit footprints, beautiful interactive displays, show sponsorships, show advertising, and the like.  This often involves doing things that management, channel partners, and key customers are comfortable with.  Consider this:

  • What if you move change management paradigms beyond the stigma of not being at the trade show or “we’ve always done it this way.”
  • What if you prioritized and focused on the most important 2-3 business goals to be achieved at a said trade show for a said year?
  • What if you would do a cost-to-benefit analysis of virtual other options and compare them to trade shows? For example, investing the dollars/resources spent on a trade show in face-to-face meetings with current customers and select prospects?
  • What if your company used new technology platforms to create virtual showrooms and virtual product walk-throughs?

Evaluation Metrics – Well before COVID, clients were asking us to evaluate trade show participation with metrics such as:

  • Lead conversion rates
  • Cost/profitability per lead
  • Staff time cost
  • Impact on booth visitors

What other metrics merit consideration?  The key is to identify the things that are important to your channel partners and your end-user customers.  Consider the following:

  • Thought leadership
  • Innovation
  • Product experience/demonstration
  • Industry networking/education

Increasing ROI – There’s a lot to be said for tried and true PR approaches to leveraging trade shows that don’t huge involve media buys or big expensive booths.  Consider the following:

  • Placing your management, scientists, and other experts as seminar speakers or round table participants at the show and creating video recaps of their presentations
  • Scheduling pre-show sneak peeks to launch new products
  • Presenting trend research
  • Winning “best of show” awards
  • Scheduling booth interviews with journalists, freelancers and industry influencers who attend the show AND – more important — with those who don’t attend the show

For more information, contact Mike Reiber at  

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