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Attending vs. Exhibiting: Should You Spend Big Bucks on a Trade Show?

John Hingley - Dasheroo

There are two sides to every trade show: the attendees and the exhibitors.

Regardless of your industry, company size or location, there are sure to be a few trade shows that call your name. These powerful gatherings bring buyers and sellers of a related industry under the same roof at the same time, to do some serious business.

As a company, you have a big decision to make: will you send one or more employee to the event as an attendee, or will you pony up the money for a small piece of the trade show floor?

How to Make a Decision

This question deserves your full and undivided attention. The right decision could give your company the boost it needs. Conversely, the wrong choice could hold you back from reaching your goals.

In an overall sense, there is only one thing that matters: return on investment (ROI). Will you generate more revenue from the tradeshow than you spend on the cost to exhibit?

Along with this question, here are five others to ask yourself before deciding to attend or exhibit.

1. Can Your Company Afford It?

Even if you are confident in your ability to generate a positive ROI, there is no guarantee. If you aren’t in a position to spend big bucks on a booth, or you're not confident you will get the meetings you need, it might be best to step back.

Reassess your company's current position and decide whether it would be more beneficial to participate in a future event.

Check to see if there are any other trade shows in the near future or in your surrounding counties. This is easier said for companies located in urban areas. Sticking more local will allow for you to cut down on travel costs, but also the shipping of your marketing materials if you're exhibiting. 

Related Article: How Exhibitors Stick to Their Trade Show Budget

2. How Close of a Match Is Your Market With the Expected Attendees?

Here is something you should never forget: you only want to exhibit at trade shows where the audience closely matches your market.

For example, if your core target is small-to-medium sized businesses, don’t attend trade shows where a large majority are larger companies. You may make some sales if you're lucky. You may even form some valuable partnerships.

Even so, you aren’t getting your product in front of your target audience. And that is what matters most.

Before you attend a trade show, sit down and determine your ideal prospects. This way, when you are attending the event you can be sure to ask the proper questions to ensure your product or service is an ideal fit for said audience.

3. Will You Receive Solid Feedback?

Depending on the size of the event, it’s not out of the question for thousands of people to stop by your booth. You should learn something from every conversation you have.

Feedback, positive and negative, can be used to grow your business. This goes hand in hand with attending trade shows that attract your target audience. You want to take advice and feedback from potential customers.

After all, these are the people you are trying to win over. Make sure you write it down and share it with the team, it's invaluable.

4. What Is the True Cost?

There is more to attending a tradeshow than the cost of a booth.

  • Have you considered the cost of travel for the employees who will work the event? This includes everything from airfare to lodging to food.
  • How about lost productivity around the office?
  • Do you need a new tradeshow display, signage, datasheets and business cards?
  • Will you need to rent lead capture devices, furniture, monitors, Internet or display cases?

Don’t neglect to consider all the expenses associated with a trade show. You may be surprised at just how much it will cost.

5. Will It Open New Doors?

You don’t necessarily have to calculate ROI through the number of leads and estimated sales close rate. There are other ways to “win” at a tradeshow, such as forming partnerships and learning from others in your space.

You also might be surprised by the sheer number of "impressions" you get just by someone walking by your booth. Remember this could be a great marketing tool for your business.

Sales directly attributed to tradeshow attendance will put a smile on your face. Just remember that this is not the end all.

Related Article: Selling At a Trade Show: How to Kill Your Competition

Your Final Decision

It’s common to go “back and forth” when deciding whether to spend big bucks on a tradeshow. One day you are all in. The next, you aren’t so sure it’s worth the money.

You might look to see if you know someone at a business who has exhibited at the same trade show in the past. Reach out to them and ask them if it was worth the money, it might help with your final decision.

One more thing, if you are on the fence, answering the questions above can help you make an informed decision.

Image via TGMShowTM

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
John Hingley - Dasheroo Member
John co-founded Dasheroo, business dashboards done right. After looking at all of the separate data sources a business needs to look at in order to be successful, we figured why not bring it all together, make sense out of it and make it easily accessible in one easy business dashboard. John brings 20+ years of sales & online marketing expertise with analytics-driven decision making & business savvy to help dozens of companies gain market share. He was a co-founder and advisor to VerticalResponse, acquired by Deluxe in 2013. John founded social media analytics company Andiamo Systems, acquired by Techrigy, Alterian and later HP. Prior as COO, John led the turnaround of He built the direct-to-consumer direct software business for Softkey/The Learning Company later acquired by Mattel. And yes, "Mr. Wonderful" was his boss, no pressure there.