What Are Trade Shows?

What Are Trade Shows? Why Should Businesses Invest In It Today?

In 2023, trade shows are back bigger and better than ever. After two years of pandemic-induced disruptions, businesses are eager to reconnect with customers and prospects at these live events.

Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to showcase your products and services to a targeted audience, build relationships with potential partners, and stay ahead of the competition. In fact, three out of four marketing professionals and exhibitors in the US are optimistic about achieving better results from trade shows in 2023.

This blog post will familiarize you with trade shows and their importance while also explaining the major types and best practices.So, let's get started.

What are Trade Shows?

For many people, a trade show's meaning is limited to just another exhibition of businesses. However, you may wonder, ‘What are trade shows in marketing?” 

A trade show is a business event where companies in a specific industry gather to showcase and promote their latest products and services. The attendees at these events include representatives from companies, distributors, resellers, suppliers, members of the industry media, and sometimes, the general public. 

Companies or exhibitors participating in trade shows set up booths or displays to engage with attendees, offer product demonstrations, distribute promotional materials, and deliver information about their brands. The ultimate goal of exhibiting at a trade show is to gain brand exposure to support sales for business growth.

Why are Trade Shows Important?

While the primary purpose of a trade show is to provide businesses with a platform to showcase their offerings, there are many more advantages to exhibiting at a trade show. 

Let us understand some of their importance in detail.

1. Targeted reach

Trade shows draw attendees who are professionals, decision-makers, and individuals deeply involved in a particular industry. Rather than advertising to a broad general audience, trade shows enable exhibitors to promote their products and services directly to industry professionals who have expressed interest in attending the event.

2. Face-to-face interaction

Trade shows provide a unique opportunity for exhibitors to engage in direct, in-person communication with potential customers and industry peers. This form of engagement enables businesses to build credibility by putting a human face to their brand. Exhibitors can convey their messages, value propositions, and unique selling points with greater clarity and address questions or concerns directly.

3. Networking

Because relevant professionals and companies attend trade shows within a specific industry, exhibitors can connect with industry peers, including potential collaborators, suppliers, and distributors. This interaction can lead to valuable partnerships and business deals. In fact, many business deals are initiated and negotiated during trade show networking due to the in-person setting of these events.

4. Lead generation

These events attract a highly qualified audience actively seeking solutions and innovations within their industry. 

According to a study by CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research), 82% of trade show attendees have buying authority or influence, making them valuable leads for businesses.

This means that the leads generated are more likely to convert into actual customers or clients. Exhibitors can collect essential lead information and initiate relationship building, often leading to ongoing communication and eventual conversions.

5. Brand awareness

Exhibitors at trade shows can design eye-catching booths, displays, and promotional materials that visually represent their brand. These visual elements contribute to brand recognition and recall as attendees interact with them in person and remember the visual aspects of the brand.

Moreover, trade shows often include speaking engagements and educational sessions. When representatives from a business participate in these sessions, they not only position themselves as experts but also enhance the industry's perception of their brand.

6. Industry trends

During a trade show, exhibitors have firsthand exposure to the most cutting-edge developments in their field and can engage directly with the latest products, services, and technologies in their industry. This hands-on experience allows them to understand emerging trends and innovations deeply.

Trade shows also attract industry innovators and thought leaders who often share their groundbreaking ideas. Engaging with these experts can provide insights into the direction where the industry is heading.

7. Market research

Face-to-face interaction with potential customers at trade shows facilitates in-depth discussions. These conversations enable exhibitors to get deeper insights into customer needs, preferences, and pain points.

Additionally, trade shows allow businesses to validate their ideas as they can showcase new products and gauge the audience's response directly. Positive feedback can validate the viability of their ideas, while constructive criticism can guide refinements.

8. Product demonstrations

One of the most important benefits of exhibiting at a trade show is the opportunity to give live product or service demonstrations to a targeted audience. Demonstrations provide a clear illustration of the product's value. They allow potential customers to understand how the product/service works and how it could solve their problems.

Moreover, live demonstrations create a memorable experience for attendees. Seeing a product in action leaves a lasting impression, and thus, it increases the likelihood of the product being remembered post-event.

For example, tech companies like Apple and Samsung frequently unveil their latest gadgets at events like CES (Consumer Electronics Show), generating significant media attention and consumer interest. 

Highlights from CES 2023 and Apple's bold move


9. Competitor insight

Trade shows often reveal pricing strategies and product positioning in the market. By gathering information on competitors' pricing structures and how they position their products, exhibitors can adjust their pricing and positioning strategies to remain competitive.

Additionally, trade shows enable exhibitors to examine their competitors' products or services and can provide insights into their latest innovations or features. This knowledge can inspire new product development and improvement efforts to stay ahead in the market.

10. Product/service feedback

At trade shows, an exhibitor’s booth becomes a testing ground for their product or service. Feedback from attendees can reveal how well their offerings resonate with the market and whether adjustments are needed.

On the one hand, critical feedback catalyzes product or service improvements. On the other hand, positive feedback and testimonials collected at trade shows can be leveraged in marketing efforts to boost a brand's credibility.

11. Public relations

Exhibiting at trade shows allows interaction with industry-specific media and journalists. Exhibitors can tell their brand's story, highlighting key achievements and innovations. This media coverage, including interviews or press mentions, boosts the exhibitor’s brand’s credibility and exposure.

Moreover, effective PR strategies at trade shows position an exhibitor’s company as an industry leader. Sharing insights, participating in panel discussions, or presenting innovative solutions can establish their brand as a thought leader.

12. Economic Impact

Trade shows also have a significant economic impact on the host cities and regions. They create jobs, generate tourism revenue, and stimulate local businesses. The economic impact of trade shows can be substantial.

A recently released report by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) indicates that the overall economic impact linked to visitor expenditures surged to an all-time high of $79.3 billion, marking a substantial 24.7 percent rise in 2022 compared to the prior record established in 2019.

Yes, the increase in Las Vegas trade shows helped us with more business in building booth exhibits for many IT and healthcare companies.

What are the 5 types of trade shows?

Trade shows are not one-size-fits-all; they come in various formats to suit the diverse needs of exhibitors and attendees. From general to industry-specific and international trade shows, here’s what each type of trade show entails:

1. General trade shows

General trade shows are large trade shows that invite companies and organizations from all industries, unlike shows focused on a specific sector.

General trade shows are extremely broad focus, welcoming exhibitors in IT, consumer goods, technology, manufacturing, business services, agriculture, pharma and healthcare, and virtually any industry.

They tend to be large in scale, hosted at major convention centers or fairgrounds, with thousands of exhibiting companies and tens of thousands of attendees.

The audience is open to the public, not just limited to industry professionals. All types of consumers can purchase tickets to attend.

Exhibitors range from large multinational corporations to startups and small businesses looking for mass exposure.

The goal for exhibitors at these shows is brand awareness and visibility across industries. Lead generation and sales are secondary.

General trade shows are held annually in major cities around the world. Some of the largest are CES in Las Vegas, GITEX in Dubai, and Canton Fair in China.

2. Industry-specific trade shows

Industry-specific trade shows are focused on a particular sector or niche, bringing together companies that operate in the same market. 

Audiences at industry-specific trade shows are primarily professionals in that industry - buyers, distributors, suppliers, investors, etc. These shows are not open to the general public.

These shows' exhibitions feature the latest industry innovations and insider perspectives on trends. Presentations and seminars focusing on topics and issues relevant to the industry attendees are also common.

The goal for exhibitors at industry-specific trade shows is lead generation, sales, and relationship building with current/potential industry clients.

Industry trade associations or media outlets typically organize industry-specific trade shows focused on the sector. They are held annually or biannually, often cycling through major industry hubs.

Examples include MEDICA for medical technology, VMWare Explore for cloud engineers, and International Builders' Show for construction.

3. Consumer trade shows [B2C]

Consumer trade shows are public exhibitions where companies display and promote products and services directly to potential end customers. A lively public showcase is created where brands can interact directly with potential end consumers and buyers. 

These shows are also open to the general public, who can purchase tickets.

Exhibitors range from large brands to small businesses looking to reach local consumers.

Products or services exhibited at consumer trade shows target the B2C market across industries like auto, home goods, health, fashion, and technology.

Exhibits at these shows feature interactive displays and demonstrations to engage attendees and showcase features and benefits. The shows also feature celebrity appearances, contests, entertainment, and family-friendly activities.

The goal for exhibitors is brand awareness, lead generation, and driving retail sales through show specials and discounts.

Consumer organizations, media outlets, or event management companies may host these trade shows.

Examples include international auto shows like the Japan Mobility Show, Comic-Con for entertainment fans, and Outdoor Retailer for outdoor lifestyle enthusiasts.

4. B2B trade shows

B2B trade shows allow companies to connect and conduct business with other industry players in the ecosystem. These exhibitions aim to generate partnerships, sales, and expanded visibility within a particular sector.

Exhibitors at B2B trade shows showcase products, services, and solutions tailored for commercial and organizational buyers.

Attendees are professionals like purchasers, distributors, and integrators who buy for their company.

Goals for exhibitors include lead generation, relationship building, and increasing awareness among industry partners.

5. International trade shows

International trade shows are exhibitions that bring together companies from all around the world to showcase products, build partnerships, and explore new markets. As exhibitors and attendees for these shows come from many different countries, they experience a culturally diverse atmosphere with business conversations happening in many languages.

Exhibitors include large multinational corporations and small and medium enterprises ready to go global. Attendees are business owners, importers/exporters, distributors, and sales reps exploring the international marketplace.

The goal for exhibitors is to generate leads and find retail partners, distributors, and sales outlets in foreign markets while attendees aim to discover new international suppliers and products unavailable locally.

International trade associations, government export agencies, and global media brands often sponsor international trade shows. Major examples include Hannover Messe (Germany), Arab Health (UAE), and FIHAV (Cuba).

Read More: Are You Prepared For Your First Trade Show? Here are Some Advices

How to prepare for your upcoming trade show?

Trade shows represent prime opportunities for companies to connect with key audiences and promote their brand. However, simply showing up with a basic booth is insufficient to capitalize on these events' potential. Exhibitors must thoroughly prepare and strategize to stand out from the competition and maximize lead generation. 

Here are some practical tips to ensure best preparation for your upcoming trade show:

1. Set clear goals

The first step is to define specific exhibiting objectives, whether they involve lead generation, boosting brand awareness, or launching new products/services. These goals should be realistic, measurable, and time-bound so you can track them effectively.

Additionally, communicate these goals to your team and establish a well-defined strategy for achieving them, whether it entails booth design, promotional materials, or engagement tactics.

2. Choose the right trade show

To select the right trade show, understand your target audience and where they will most likely attend. Consider demographics, industry interests, and geographic location. Additionally, explore available trade shows related to your industry or product niche. Use online directories, industry publications, and recommendations from peers to identify potential options.

Based on these two factors, along with your budget and available resources, select the trade show that aligns most effectively with your brand exhibition objectives.

3. Leverage your online presence

Leveraging your business's online presence for an upcoming trade show is strategic. Begin by optimizing your website with dedicated pages and relevant information. Use social media to generate excitement and share behind-the-scenes content. 

You can also network online with other participants and industry influencers to expand your reach.

4. Design a booth that stands out

Designing a standout booth requires creativity, strategy, and a deep understanding of your audience's expectations. Generally, investing in bold and captivating graphics and visuals is a good idea. Use creative lighting to highlight key areas and create an inviting ambiance. 

Additionally, you can create custom flooring with textured carpets, patterned tiles, or branded floor decals that reflect your brand's personality. You can also go beyond traditional banners by using layered signage. Overlapping hanging signs, backlit graphics, and 3D elements can grab visitors’ attention well.

5. Plan to engage in booth presentations and demos

In-booth presentations and demos are live, interactive sessions held within your trade show booth to showcase your products or services to attendees.

To keep your potential customers hooked, use visuals, audio, and tactile elements to create a multi-sensory experience that leaves a lasting impression. Don’t forget to design your booth layout to accommodate the presentation. Use staging, seating, and screen placement that optimizes visibility and acoustics.

6. Create interactive experiences

Set up interactive workstations within your booth where attendees can get hands-on experience with your product under your guidance.

Additionally, conduct live surveys or polls during your presentation to engage attendees and gather valuable feedback. You can also gamify your presentation by including interactive games or challenges related to your product, service, or industry. Prizes can further incentivize participation.

7. Train your staff

Give your staff a comprehensive understanding of the trade show, including the event's theme, target audience, and business goals. Your team should be well-versed in your products or services, with a strong understanding of the features, benefits, and unique selling points.

Most importantly, train your staff to deliver a concise and compelling elevator pitch that succinctly conveys your value proposition to visitors. Designate specific staff for lead generation, product demos, or client interactions.

Lastly, prepare your team to handle challenging or negative situations gracefully, whether it's dealing with dissatisfied visitors or difficult questions.

Make your trade show stand out with Pure Exhibits!

When selecting shows, focus on your geographic-specific goals and target audience to achieve trade show success. Moreover, creating an interactive booth and engaging presentations that align with your brand is essential for capturing attendees' attention.

Pure Exhibits, a trade show booth rental company, is your ideal partner to streamline booth design, manufacturing, and management. With years of involvement in the trade show industry, we understand successful booth design, logistics, and on-site management dynamics.

Our creative team excels at turning concepts into visually stunning, attention-grabbing exhibits that leave a lasting impression, while our logistics team guarantees smooth management of transportation, setup, and takedown of the booth. 

Contact us today to discuss your exhibition goals and challenges.


1. Who would attend a trade show?

Trade shows are typically attended by industry professionals, businesses, buyers, sellers, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, investors, and individuals seeking information, networking, or products/services within a specific sector.

2. How do you meet people at trade shows?

To meet people at trade shows, you can set up appointments in advance, attend networking events, participate in seminars or workshops, visit exhibitor booths, engage in social spaces using event-specific apps, etc.

3. What is the difference between a trade show and an exhibition?

While the terms are often interchangeable, a trade show generally focuses on a specific industry, allowing businesses to display and discuss their products/services. Exhibitions, on the other hand, can be broader, showcasing a variety of products, arts, or innovations.

4. What is a trade show called?

Trade shows can also be referred to as trade fairs, trade expos, or conventions.

5. What is the biggest trade show in the world?

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, showcasing the latest technology and innovation, is the largest trade show globally.

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