Trade Fairs Still Work (in 2024)

Trade shows do work and will surely continue to work. As long as the industry keeps evolving and CEOs, CMOs, as well as suppliers and other industry players are aware that it's no longer just about a buffet, coffee and square footage. But how?
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In a world already returning to a -new- normality marked by the AI revolution, marketers, CEOs, CMOs review commercial investment alternatives for their brands and products. The question: Do trade fairs still work? comes up with an emphasis on skepticism.

In fact, at the end of last year, a publication of Linkedin went viral saying that trade shows don't work - why, because there are too many people, the food and coffee are bad... and the air conditioning.🤔

In the end, the message was that trade shows are bad. And, spolier: they're not. Can the experience be better? Of course it can.

What do trade shows need to change to stay relevant?

The events industry is one of the most pressured to change, to digitalize and renew itself as it is one of the most traditional. Many organizers, suppliers, creative teams are still "thinking" as they did in the 90's or 00's. But the truth is that trade shows have been around for many years, have become an important part of the economy and continue to be a hard to match platform to promote products and services, as well as an opportunity to meet important contacts that certainly help innovation and move money. Some points where trade shows need to improve in 2024 are:

  • Exhibitors should have access to web and digital marketing tools to provide interesting content to users and the organizer should facilitate at least part of this.
  • Trade shows should offer a variety of entertainment to keep consumers interested. This includes not only live entertainment, such as music, performances, competitions. But also activities such as interactive games with VR/AR, gamification dynamics and interactions through for example a App for Events.
  • Trade shows need to modernize and make use of the latest technologies. From online registration, the registration and entryto the interaction with the content, the speakers, as well as the way of doing things. networking and everything related to the post-event.
  • Innovation in venues and their involvement in the user experience is paramount.
  • Tourism is becoming more and more relevant, organizers should think about offering tourist experiences within the same plan of the fair.

So, are trade shows in decline?

The fact is: trade shows had one of the best years in 2023.

In the UFI Global CongressExplori's Sophie Holt shared how the NPS benchmark for trade shows turned positive for the first time in a decade in 2022 and 2023. In addition, Gartner shared a recent survey of how events are the #1 budget item for technology companies with a $ 100 million budget. This is data. It's not anecdotal opinion.

But what factors then are most relevant to trade shows when assessing their viability?

  • Technology, sustainability and inclusion (the terrain of the Hybrid events?)
  • Focus on data and tighter ROI
  • New format, venues and sponsorship offers
  • Full integration with social media, digital channels and web content
  • Macro- and Micro-Events combined to generate community and remembrance

Well now, is it better to organize your own fair or better to invest in a third party?

The tricky thing about in-house events is discovering and converting attendees beyond your current customer base unless you make the incredible transition to an inbound marketing model, which takes time. However, the reality is that you probably need both, at least until you build a strong enough brand and customer base that you don't need third-party events.

Combine your own micro-events (can be virtualThe combination of a branded product (e.g., free of charge, etc.) with participation in third-party macro events is probably the ideal combination. Especially speaking of branding, it is essential to show up at industry trade shows. It has been proven repeatedly that attending specific events goes beyond closing business and networking. It is definitely also a matter of brand building. If you don't show up then you're not on the map, period.

So, trade shows do work and will surely continue to work. As long as the industry keeps evolving and CEOs, CMOs, as well as suppliers and other industry players are aware that it's no longer just about a buffet, coffee and a lot of square footage.

That said, we are confident that trade shows are working more than ever and for many of us.

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