I write this post just as I complete setting up a trade show booth at the Raleigh Convention Center. I’m wearing my Site Dynamics hat this week for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) convention. While setting up the booth I was reminded of how important trade shows and conventions are in our marketing approach.

As we witness how technology, specially the web has changed marketing strategy, we sometimes forget that our relationships with customers, partners and other stakeholders needs to happen in person. conference calls, mashups, IM, email and Web 2.0 technologies remove us from that personal experience that was essential to marketing and sales for centuries.
When I worked in the heavy machinery industry, IMTS was the main show. So big it’s held every two years and always in Chicago’s McCormick Place. The first show I did there was in 98 and all the elder salesmen told stories of how not 10 years earlier the show was the place to do actual business. Machines were not shipped back to the factory, they were sold on the floor and shipped to the customer. And this is no small tooling show, or multi-axis, superabrasive grinders and lasers cost $300,000+ each!
My biggest challenge with justifying shows in today’s marketing environment is measuring value. We can all easily measure leads and contacts made, but the impression of your company on the show attendees is the immeasurable impact. I know that for the IMTS show if you did not appear rumors were flying that your company is having financial troubles or out of business!
The other great immeasurable value of trade shows is that it gives the exhibitor a chance to evaluate competition, discover new technologies or possible partners and even recruit future employees. I think it’s important for us to remember that trade shows are not always about how much revenue they generate, but how much value they build for our brands and company.
What’s your take on trade shows today? Are you cutting show attendance, reducing attendees or not going at all?

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.