Resolving the Conundrum - How Audits Can Help You Select the Best Trade Shows

By Marilyn R. Kroner

Determining Return On Investment (ROI) and Return on Objectives (ROO) has become a way of life in the world of trade show and event marketing.  Executive management has demanded better measurement of marketing initiatives, and expects definitive results on specific objectives.  This can be a conundrum for trade show and event marketers, especially when trying to determine whether or not to commit to a trade show where they have never exhibited or to shows where they previously exhibited — always seeking to maximize investment through improved performance. Exhibit managers must rely on solid data when selecting the best trade shows for their companies.

Determining the right shows for your program begins with a thorough understanding of your company’s target audience or audiences.  It is also important to understand your company’s positioning and messaging within those audiences.  Once that work is done, your job is to find the shows that you are confident will provide that target audience.

Gathering Information
Compile as much data as possible about the shows under consideration. 

  • If you have exhibited at a show before, you can simply review the data that you compiled from the year you exhibited. That information will help influence your decision. But it isn’t enough — especially now that many shows are evolving to meet the needs of changing markets, or merging with other shows and altering their direction.
  • Talk to cohorts who have been to the show.  If you have friends in the industry who have gone to some of the shows you are considering, their feedback can be helpful. Remember, your goals might be different from some of the other exhibitors, so keep your objectives top-of-mind when making your final recommendations. 
  • Talk to your vendor partners.  Your exhibit house, PR agency, and advertising agency might have clients who have participated in the shows that you are considering. Listen to the general feedback they received. 
  • What are your competition and distribution partners doing?  What shows are they selecting?  By no means should you simply exhibit at the same shows as your competition or partners.  In fact, you can have great success at shows where none of your competitors or partners exhibit.  Still, knowing what your competition and partners are doing is information you should always have at your fingertips.
  • Study the conference content.  Many shows include conference tracks.  Scrutinize those tracks to see if any of the content matches the interests of your target audience. 
  • Is there an award competition at the show?  If the show is giving awards for your category of product or products, you can leverage a win (or even a finalist honor) from an integrated marketing communications perspective for a long time to come.  You can show the award in your booth at future shows. A press announcement about the award can be released, prompting future articles in trade publications. The award logo can be added to your advertising and web site.  Your product will forever be defined as “award-winning.”  And it ultimately helps your executive management understand the value of trade shows. 

These items are all certainly worth considering when selecting the right shows for your company!