Is Your Tradeshow Too Big?

Maybe.ConExpo

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 michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.