Trade shows and expos have long been regarded as important channels for businesses to engage with potential customers, showcase their offerings, expand their brand recognition, and network with industry peers. However, in a marketplace increasingly driven by fast-paced digital sales and virtual engagement, many business owners are left pondering the same question: “Are trade shows worth it in today’s economy?”

While the growing appeal of digital platforms is certainly worth exploring, the in-person engagement and presence offered by trade shows cannot truly be replicated. Despite our country’s ever-changing economic landscape, trade shows continue to provide exhibitors with unique experiences and opportunities, most of which are unlikely to be found through other platforms.

Below, we’ll explore a few key intrinsic advantages offered by trade shows in today’s competitive economic landscape. After witnessing thousands of trade shows change the course of our customers’ careers, we’re certain that these benefits will remain for years to come.

Table of Contents:

Why Are Trade Shows Worth It?

Trade shows are changing and evolving just as rapidly as the markets they serve. Because of the increasing emphasis on hybrid or virtual events post-pandemic, it’s only natural for many exhibitors to wonder, “Are trade shows worth it?” Virtual events, webinars, and online conferences provide businesses with platforms to instantly connect with a global audience—so what exactly sets in-person trade shows apart?

Compared to other forms of marketing, trade shows are uniquely beneficial to exhibitors. Taking into account the collective sales opportunities, networking prospects, brand exposure, and rich interpersonal dynamics offered by these experiences, trade shows remain veritable gold mines for businesses across every industry and region.

Trade shows’ effectiveness, or put more generally, their “worth,” can be measured in a number of ways. The following advantages are just a few of the many qualities that make trade shows an invaluable investment for businesses looking to—quite literally—stand out from the crowd.

1. Sales Opportunities

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of trade shows is the opportunity to make a killing on the showroom floor. As of this writing, exhibitors generate $15.6 billion in revenue from trade shows, with 71% of small and medium-sized businesses reporting that they earned business face to face at a show.

By participating in expos, exhibitors set themselves up to create relationships and partnerships that bring in larger amounts of revenue than they would otherwise make by constantly putting money into targeted ads and online marketing.

Many expos purposely attract high-intent buyers. At trade shows, these potential customers and clients are able to more fully engage with your offerings and get their questions answered. This increases the likelihood of converting leads into actual sales, explaining why it only takes 3.5 sales calls on average to close a lead generated at an expo compared to 4.5 sales calls for other leads.

2. Product Launches and Demos

For businesses on the verge of launching new products, services, or add-on features, trade shows are an ideal place to debut and demonstrate all of your latest offerings. They also give you an opportunity to get early feedback from your target audience on new products before an official launch or major marketing push. By leveraging showmanship and experiential learning in front of a captive audience, exhibitors are able to bring potential customers into the fold and connect with them firsthand.

These launches and demos leave a lasting impact on customers and influence their decision-making processes by helping to ingrain a layered sensory experience. Physical exhibits provide a level of product understanding and consumer confidence that virtual presentations may struggle or altogether fail to convey.

3. Brand Exposure and Recognition

One reason why trade shows are worth it is because they create brand recognition, as shown in this highly visible and branded client booth

Investing in a trade show booth or exhibit is an investment in both brand exposure and recognition. Every trade show offers exhibitors the chance to engage with new demographics and reach a wider, more diverse audience outside of traditional algorithmic or geographic constraints.

While it’s true that some shows may be more well-attended than others, the visibility gained at all of these events can help foster higher levels of brand recall in consumers, clients, industry professionals, and even competitors. The physicality offered by a booth and its promotional materials makes attendees far more likely to remember and recognize a brand they’ve encountered in person as opposed to those they’ve only briefly seen online.

4. Market Research

Unlike online surveys or complicated analytical tools, trade shows offer exhibitors immediate and obvious feedback on their offerings in real time. Well-trained booth staff are able to clearly determine which products and services garner meaningful attention and which are quickly passed over in favor of others. They can also take note of any questions they receive about products and services, especially those they get asked over and over again.

As you gauge the market’s response to your products or services, this on-the-ground information later proves invaluable in helping you fine-tune your brand’s offerings. Expo attendees act as a sort of pseudo focus-group, expressing their unbiased preferences and needs in person.

5. In-Person Networking and Lead Generation

A crowd of interested buyers, sellers, and industry professionals at a trade show are worthwhile networking opportunities

In a world where virtual communication has become the norm, the value of face-to-face interaction has assumed a new level of importance. Trade shows are the perfect networking environment, bringing together professionals from all over the world under one roof.

These new connections can eventually transform into lasting collaborations, brand partnerships, and other business opportunities, which leads to knowledge sharing, innovation, and mutually generative revenue channels. By generating meaningful leads, businesses are able to turn conversations into conversions as they connect after hours and deploy targeted follow-up strategies.

Not only do trade shows provide exhibitors with opportunities to engage directly with potential customers, partners, and industry experts, but they also help to foster something much more intangible and profound—trust. By creating an environment that is especially conducive to more relaxed interpersonal connection, trade shows foster a culture of etiquette among vendors and an ethos of credibility and trustworthiness among customers, introducing them to the incredible personnel behind the brand.

6. Honing a Competitive Edge

One of the most crucial aspects of your trade show ROI is fine-tuning a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. In 2023, companies reported budgeting over $1.3 million for exhibiting, up 70% from 2022 and finally exceeding the average pre-pandemic budget in 2019.

Trade shows teach exhibitors exactly what they need to know in terms of how to set their company apart from their competitors, and how to use their platform to showcase and highlight their selling points and differentiators. With a well-designed booth layout, innovative product displays, eye-catching presentations, and unique giveaways, businesses are better able to conjure a lasting presence and position themselves as relevant leaders in their chosen industry.

Moreover, expos allow you to attend seminars, panel discussions, and product demonstrations from other industry leaders, all of which help you to stay ahead of any emergent trends and to ensure that your offerings align with current innovations and market demands.

Additional Tips for Exhibitors

So are trade shows worth it? Absolutely—but maximizing your opportunities at a trade show also takes a significant effort. Exhibitors get out of trade shows what they put into them, so you have to ask yourself, do you have enough time and energy to spare? If not, you can work with a trade show service provider like us to get end-to-end management of your exhibit that can save you time, money, and effort so you can get the most out of each show.

While the benefits of trade shows are incontestable, new exhibitors may still feel some uncertainty about the most successful ways to embed their businesses in more complex expo circuits. They may also be concerned about things like competition overload or the logistical challenges such as shipping and warehousing inventory. While out-of-pocket costs and time-intensive requirements may seem like daunting hurdles at first, they can be overcome by building out a solid trade show business plan that accounts for the financials required by expos end to end.

Additionally, brushing up on a few tips for effective booth management before the big day will allow exhibitors to set themselves up for success on the expo floor from the very beginning. In-depth research, effective organization, adequate staff preparation, and finely tuned engagement strategies are all key aspects of making trade shows worth it.

There are countless ways to helpfully deconstruct the exhibitor experience and learn about a trade show’s worth more concretely. After the show is over, exhibitors can continue to explore the ROI of their trade shows by calculating their net profit divided by the costs of investment. You can examine overall sales, revenue, leads, and booth traffic measured against the costs of booth space and design, shipping, travel, warehousing, swag, lodging, and any other costs incurred. By reviewing your performance, you can identify where to ramp up your efforts, make changes, and otherwise improve outcomes for next time.

Make Your Trade Show Worth Every Penny with Cardinal Expo

At Cardinal Expo, we have three generations of experience at our disposal. We make sure that if anyone asks our customers, “Are trade shows worth it?,” they answer with a resounding, “Yes!” For over 30 years, our full-service, turnkey operations have helped hundreds of businesses maximize their trade show experience at expos across the country.

Our comprehensive exhibit management services will work within your budget to make every cent count toward meeting your objectives, taking your brand to unimaginable new heights wherever you may exhibit. We are also proud to offer industry-leading exhibit design, end-to-end logistics and shipping services, professional production management, and onsite supervision to ensure that everything runs smoothly from the very start.

Learn more about how we can transform your trade show experience, starting today. Contact us by filling out the form below.

Contact Us Today

We at Cardinal Expo are here to answer any questions you may have, provide you with additional information, and create an effective solution for your exhibit needs.

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