Event Types: A Guide to Trade Shows & Expos
It can be difficult for companies to make their products stand out in a world filled with tens of millions of products and services. It can also be challenging for consumers and professional buyers to find the next offering to change their lives.
To overcome these obstacles, more and more organizations are participating in trade shows and expos, which bring companies and industry professionals together in one space to showcase new products on the market and explore innovative new products, services, and solutions.
This article will examine what trade shows and expos are, what format works best for these events, and who attends them. We’ll also explore what companies and attendees hope to accomplish by participating, examples of popular trade shows, and how event management software can help organizers make the most out of their next event.
What are trade shows and expos?
Expos and trade shows are large-scale events that bring professionals together to showcase new products, share ideas, meet other people in the industry, upskill, and help companies make new connections with prospective buyers and vice versa.
Because trade shows enable companies to present their products and services to an influential audience at one time — and because these events allow attendees to become familiar with many offerings at once — it is no surprise that the market for trade shows and expos is growing.
According to Statista, the global B2B trade show market was valued at $34.4 billion in 2019 and is on track to surpass $40 billion in 2023 — steady growth despite the pandemic’s impact on in-person events.
Who goes to trade shows and expos, and which formats work best?
While some trade shows are professional events that exclusively cater to business buyers, others are open to the general public. Either way, at these types of events, you can expect to find a diverse audience that includes:
- Product exhibitors
- Industry professionals
- Social influencers
- Business buyers
- Value-added resellers
- Artists, entertainers, celebrities
Typically, trade shows and expos are in-person events that take place in convention centers and other large venues over several days. However, some trade shows have embraced virtual and hybrid formats in recent years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, one of the largest and most popular multi-week in-person events, SXSW, went virtual in 2020 and 2021 before returning in-person in 2022.
What are the objectives of a trade show or expo?
Goals differ for organizers, exhibitors, and attendees of trade shows and expos.
- Organizers: For most trade shows and expos, an organizer’s primary goal is making money from ticket sales. In many cases, event marketers who have trade show certifications are responsible for generating buzz and revenue. Additionally, organizers are also interested in generating leads, raising brand awareness, and demonstrating thought leadership. To keep their costs in check, organizers also aim to lock down sponsors.
- Attendees: Whether they’re business buyers, media professionals, or just regular folks, people go to trade shows to learn about new products and services. At the same time, they’re interested in networking with other industry professionals and generating leads for their own businesses. In some cases, attendees may simply be interested in seeing their competitors’ projects.
- Exhibitors: Businesses that agree to exhibit their products and services at trade shows are interested in making money, generating leads, and nurturing existing relationships. According to The Tradeshow Network Marketing Group, the top reasons exhibitors attend expos and trade shows are: raising brand awareness (88%), generating new leads (72%), and getting face time with existing clients (65%)
What are some examples of expos and trade shows?
A recent report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found roughly 9,400 business-to-business (B2B) trade shows and expos in the United States each year. To give you a better idea of what these expos and trade shows are like, here’s a summary of three of the most popular ones.
1. Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
Tracing its roots to 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) brought in 45,000 attendees and 2,300 exhibitors in 2022, including Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, LG, and Sony. (Note: These numbers are down from January 2020, which saw 171,000 attendees and 4,400 exhibitors at the last pre-pandemic in-person event). The event, which the Consumer Technology Association organizes each year and is perhaps one of the best-known trade shows, is held every January in Las Vegas.
Source: AP/CBS News
2. Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo
The Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo is an event that brings together supply chain executives, heads of procurement, manufacturers, and logistics professionals to share ideas about building more resilient and more efficient supply chains. In 2022, the trade show focused on helping supply chain leaders manage risk, accelerate digital transformation, and build sustainability into the foundation of their operations.
SXSW is a festival that highlights the latest in music, technology, media, education, and the arts. Founded in 1987, SXSW features several exhibitions, including a Creative Industries Expo where startups and other exhibitors show off their products to tens of thousands of attendees. In 2022, significant players Norton, WeTransfer, Indeed, Xero, and Husqvarna participated in the event.
How can Bizzabo help you put on successful expos and trade shows?
Bizzabo’s Event Experience Operating System (OS) is designed to help event organizers and planners produce leading-edge experiential events — whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid. Not only can Bizzabo help you plan, organize, and promote your next trade show or expo, but we also help you enhance your onsite and attendee check-in experiences with Bizzabo’s Onsite Services.
From badge printing and check-in to advanced onsite services including session scanning or lead capture, we have the software, hardware, and technical expertise to deliver an exceptional experience for all involved. Also? Our system is built for stability — even when WiFi is unreliable.
When you’re ready to transform your event strategy into an unforgettable experience, check out this pre-trade show checklist and then schedule a demo and accelerate your journey toward delivering more human events.