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Trade shows – a relic or an essential component of a marketing campaign?

My last blog post was about the role of printed material in the “internet age”. Another area that I’m heavily involved in is the managing of trade shows and I started thinking along the same lines – does the traditional trade show still have a place in this modern world?

Typical trade show

The biggest show I’m involved with is Pittcon (or the Pittsburgh Conference of Analytical Chemistry!). My first Pittcon was 1998 and total attendance was approx 28,000. This was slightly down from the biggest year ever which maxed out at about 34,000 attendees in 1996. Attendance at the 2010 was an all time low at 16,800 – that’s more than 10,000 people who have just stopped going. The number of exhibitors is down too – not by the same percentage but still significantly (1200 in 1998, 960 in 2010).

The average cost of exhibiting at trade shows is a tricky number to pin down, but I found a 1999 article that talked about the costs averaging out at between $99-156/sq. ft. of booth space and I can only imagine its more than that now. So for a 10 x 10 booth the small business owner is likely looking at least $10,000, maybe $15,000 or more.

Surely the combination of diminishing numbers and increasing (or at least not decreasing) costs means that trade shows are D.E.A.D, dead!

Not so fast! (more…)

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