best trade shows for exhibitors

Trade shows are one of the original forms of experiential marketing. A place to demonstrate your latest products, meet potential buyers face-to-face and provide a memorable brand experience. An environment designed for fostering direct consumer engagements. That’s why we love trade shows!

But for a brand looking to add trade show exhibiting to their overall marketing strategy for the first time, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. How do you decide which trade shows will bring the most return on your investment?

Let’s face it, exhibiting ain’t cheap. Not when you account for booth design, travel, staffing and square footage on the expo floor. And we haven’t even gotten to the actual trade show marketing expenses, yet.

There are over 10,000 trade shows and a whopping 1.83 million meetings held every year in the U.S.* So how does one select the best trade show for exhibiting?

Download Your Free Comparison Template

We’ve developed an Excel spreadsheet template to help you compare and contrast your trade show options. Some of the criteria we recommend you consider are:

1. Number of attendees and the attendee profile (are they the right target audience?)

2. Total cost of exhibiting, including travel, accommodation and entertainment**

3. Show destination (does the location draw your target market? is it convenient to get to?)

4. Reviews and feedback from past show attendees

5. Reviews and feedback from past show exhibitors

6. Show’s marketing and advertising strategy (do they promote exhibitors? do they bring in new audiences?)

7. Exhibitor lists (where do your competitors go?)

8. Customer feedback (which shows do your current customers attend?)

9. Industry partner and vendor feedback

Weigh your options strategically, considering both qualitative and quantitative details.

If the event is an annual trade show, we recommend scoping it out a year in advance and before you commit to exhibiting. Not only is it good intel before signing on a dotted line, but simply attending a show can be beneficial to you in many other ways. You can see what’s trending in your industry and network with potential leads during the conference hours.

And always, always arm yourself with a camera when you’re walking a trade show floor! Snap pictures of competitor booths, so you can send those along to your trade show design team. You never know when inspiration may strike, and taking photos of the trade show layout, other booths and unique experiences may help spark an idea of your own.

Yup, we recommend spying as a great pre-trade show commitment strategy. Grab your mystery pen and night vision goggles, and let’s get planning!

Until then, do a little detective work inside our trade show exhibitor guide – it will take you through trade show selection to post-show marketing! The best part? It’s free!

Trade Show Exhibitor Guide

Trade Show Exhibitor Guide

This free download is chock-full of tips for your next trade show – logistics, marketing, consumer engagements!

Download. It’s Free!

In addition, we recommend checking out what others are saying about the trade shows you’re considering using a tool such as Tradefest. This is a free resource where people share feedback on conferences and trade shows from around the world. It’s a trusted review site that can help you gain unbiased insights. These reviews may inform your trade show selections.


**The Trade Show Institute estimates that travel, accommodation and entertainment account for 21% of an exhibiting company’s budget