Is Your Tradeshow Too Big?


Does size matter in the events industry? Is it really important to have more square feet of exhibit space or more attendees than any other tradeshow in your industry sector?

Probably not.

In a recent article for the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers, Senior Vice President for Exhibitions & Events Megan Tanel told her exhibitors, “The value of a trade show is not how big your space is or how tall your structure might be. It’s not in how many signs you buy through sponsorships or how many staff you bring all in the same logo’d shirt. It’s about what your plan is for introducing yourself to prospective new customers, how you’re continuing your relationship with your existing customers, and when you will continue to utilize the show brand.”

This is the same Megan Tanel who runs, among others, CONEXPO-CON/AGG and ICUEE, two of the largest tradeshows the industry has.

The question of whether size matters has bugged me ever since I first became editor-in-chief of Tradeshow Week more than 15 years ago and was suddenly responsible for the TSW 200 and the TSW Fastest 50, lists of shows that measured success by the number of square feet and registered attendees they had.

The question bugs me even more now since the events industry has changed so drastically. Those metrics, still in favor by many, were significant in an age when the value of a product was directly proportional to its size. Trade shows were where people went to sell big things – machines, equipment, giant servers, furniture, etc. – and the more space you took up, the better you were.

Things of value today…not so big. In fact, there are products of great value that have almost no physical presence at all! At best, those trying to pitch them can use their tradeshow booth to demonstrate something that nobody can see or hold in their hands.

Those old metrics also stem from a time when the tradeshow floor was – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the best place for buyers and sellers to connect.

That is no longer the case either. People with stories to tell and products to sell have many, many ways to communicate with potential audiences. The event is just one of many marketing channels available to them.

Stop me one more time if you’ve heard this one too: The opportunities for engagement and community are what makes an event valuable today, not the size of its exhibit hall or the number of people in those tired aisles.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at

Visit Indy CEO to Indianapolis: It’s a Small World After All

You know the events industry has started to turn a corner when the CEO of a major convention bureau says he doesn’t want a convention center expansion.

GenCon imageEarlier this week, Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops told the Indianapolis Business Journal the Indiana Convention Center did not need an expansion anywhere close to the one in 2011 that cost $275 million.

As it is, Hoops told the newspaper, “The south end of the convention center can be difficult to sell separately.”

His remarks were apparently inspired by suggestions at Indianapolis City Hall and in the local media that an expansion was necessary to keep Gen Con – a gaming event that drew 60,000 people to town earlier this month – coming back.

Comments left on the online version of the Indianapolis Business Journal article included nuggets like “Visit Indy needs a new CEO” and “He is completely out of touch,” proving only that old habits die hard.

This follows by less than a month the suggestion by Comic-Con International Board President John Rogers that San Diego likewise stop worrying about a convention center expansion: Comic-Con doesn’t need the extra space anyway.

Comic-Con and Gen Con fans, along with attendees at every other kind of event, no longer are satisfied with being herded like sheep into cavernous exhibit halls and ballrooms where they need a giant video screen to get a decent look at the keynote speaker.

This is the era of personalization in the events industry, in which less is indeed more. Some event organizers are starting to get it, as apparently is at least one convention bureau CEO: Leonard Hoops of Visit Indy.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at