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Marketing & Tech
Approach Your Show Selection Strategically
Dec 3, 2009 | Barry Siskind lock

Imagine you took a bite of a sour apple. Based on that one experience would you say, “I’m never eating apples again?”

The same holds true of exhibitors at trade shows who try it once and say, “This is not for me.”

The trick is to pick the fruit that complements your taste. One person’s sour apple is another’s compote. In the case of trade shows it means choosing events that complement your specific marketing plan.

Not all shows are the same. You have over 30,000 shows worldwide to choose from. So choosing well takes time and some strategic thinking.

Before you start comparing apples to bananas, here are some considerations to address;

Your objective

Show selection starts with a focus. Ask yourself, “What do I want from my exhibiting investment? “How will exhibiting complement my overall marketing plan?” This is where the process begins.


Shows come in all sizes. You can attend a monstrous international show that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors or a regional show that may attract a few hundred. Consider the size of audience you need to achieve your objectives.

Audience quality

While it’s easy to be seduced by large numbers, the important consideration is quality. There is no point showing your products and services to people who don’t care. Talk to your show manager. Ask pointed questions to know if your target prospects will be attending the show in sufficient numbers to justify the investment.


It is important to understand the predominant language preference of attendees. This gives you a heads-up on preparing your literature, business cards, signs and graphics. It is also an indication of whether you need to hire a translator to work with your booth staff. The rule of thumb is that all materials should translated into the language of the host country first.

The facility

Not all facilities are created equal. While some are specifically designed to accommodate exhibitions, others may include a local arena, a sports stadium or hotel conference rooms.

Some facilities are comprised of many buildings. This is typical in many facilities that host larger international shows. Often the buildings are categorized by product that makes it easier for the visitor to find what they are looking for.

Air conditioning

Air conditioning may be an important consideration for many facilities in warmer climates. In some areas of the world where cool air is not the norm, you may find exhibitors with enclosed air-conditioned booths.


Drayage is the cost of moving goods from the loading dock to your booth space. Some facilities have contracts with labour unions and this cost gets passed along to exhibitors, other facilities don’t. Check to make sure your budget covers this cost.

Loading areas

Some facilities have designated marshalling areas and move in is done in order of appointments rather than allowing you to simply drive your truck to the back door and unload. Occasionally, priority is given to official shipping companies (those chosen by show management) and the rest take their turn in line.


Cost is really the last consideration. All too often new exhibitors look at cost as the foremost criteria. However, if your show is giving you the right opportunity and there is a chance for you to see a positive return on your investment, you should consider cost comparison later in the selection process.

There is an old joke that goes; do you know what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Half a worm.

The lesson is to look closely and know what you are biting into.

About the Author:

Barry Siskind, President and Founder of Internationals Training and Management Company. Barry is a consultant, speaker and internationally recognized expert in trade and consumer shows. Barry is an active member of the Canadian Association of Exposition Management (CAEM), the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) and International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).

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