What is a trade show? A guide for business exhibitors

If you’re wondering, ‘What is a trade show and how can it help my business?’ then you’re in the right place.

You might be thinking of attending a show for the first time to boost business. Or you may be launching a new product or service and a show is a great place to start getting the word out. 

Entering the world of trade fairs can feel exciting but also terrifying. In the 35+ years Expo Ease has been working with exhibitors and contractors we’ve seen that wide-eyed wonderment (or is it terror?) when a business or event contractor attends their first show.

The look is a mixture of confusion, determination, and excitement, with a little bit of exhaustion thrown in. Once you learn what a trade show is, experience the thrill of showtime, and enjoy the business benefits they bring, trade shows become addictive. 

Specialty show services: Booth made inviting and attractive with plants from Expo Ease.

If trade shows are a new world to you, it takes time to learn all the ins and outs. So lean on us and the decades of trade show experience that we’ll share with you. 

Each article will offer practical advice so you may succeed as an exhibitor or contractor. Our knowledge isn’t plucked from what we think might work. It comes from our first-hand experience of working some of America’s biggest trade shows. 

Let’s start by getting our teeth into a meaty introductory topic: the basics of a trade show.

In this first post, you’ll learn what a trade show is, how they’re organized, and some of the services available that make sure you have an incredible show experience. 

What is a trade show?

A trade show is an event that brings together companies and individuals from a particular industry. It’s a chance to display, discuss, and demonstrate their products and services. Depending on the nature of the trade show businesses either exhibit to other businesses in their industry, or they’re showing to the public. In either case, many companies invest in shows because they’re looking to raise the profile of their brand and network, which ultimately increases conversions. 

Who runs the trade show? 

Several management groups and hundreds of companies are needed for a show to go ahead. Here’s how the management structure of a typical trade show could look. 

A trade show is run by show management, event contractor, preferred vendor followed by the exibitor.

At the top of the tree is the show management. These are often industry investors and huge global companies. It’s show management who put up the money that gets the cogs turning. 

Below show management is the event contractor. They ‘make it happen’ by booking the services that bring a show to life. This is everything from electrical to catering, sound systems to housekeeping. It could even include hiring the marketing or PR company that promotes the show and contacts relevant exhibitors.

Event contractors usually fulfill their brief by hiring their preferred vendor for each service. For example, the contractor may have a long-standing relationship with a particular electrical company, drink brand, security service, or flooring company. Establishing a relationship with a show contractor is a very lucrative prospect for vendors. 

Exhibitors are likely to deal with the event contractor or a sales and marketing company if the contractor outsources this.  

As an exhibitor, the aim is maximizing your time and presence at a show. There are lots of services available that help you do this. 

Trade show services that make an impact

Taking part in a trade show requires time, money, and energy, so you want to make sure it’s a success. You may need extra support to achieve the success you’re after. Putting your best foot forward can mean outsourcing some of your trade show tasks. 

As this is an introductory piece to what a trade show is, we’ll begin by covering the services we offer here at Expo Ease. 

Event photography 

You’ve spent weeks, months, or the best part of a year planning your exhibition. Seeing it all come together you realize it’s a true testament to your brand and the product you’re showcasing. The problem is that your exhibit is only temporary. Rather than letting the memory of your creation slip away, hire a professional event photographer. 

A professional event photographer captures images of your booth, you and your team, and your products. This gives you a lasting record of what you created. Use the images for future content marketing and promotional materials to spread your message even further.  

Find out more about event photography 

People sitting at conference tables at a trade show.
People sitting at tables learning at a conference.

Event videography

Video is a powerful medium and there are a couple of ways you can use it to your advantage during a show. Similar to photography, you can use video to capture footage at the show which you then repurpose and use in other areas of your business either straight away or later. 

For example, you may want the launch of a new product filmed so you can share it on social media later. If you’re giving a talk and want to capture it so you can circulate it to staff as part of your internal training a videographer can do that, too. You can also have them on hand to record interviews with clients, so you and your team can analyze the feedback and get greater insight into your audience. 

Video can also help attract people to your booth. Not everyone has time to stop and read a text board. And if you’re already tied up in conversation, you may be unavailable to talk to everyone who comes by. A video loop that’s filmed and edited before the show solves both of these problems. They’re created to get your message across in an eye-catching, memorable way. 

See how event videography can help 

Models and staff

Show days are busy days. When you’re not networking you’re seeing product launches. When you’re not managing your booth you’re networking. And somewhere in the middle of it all, you’re expected to find time for lunch and take a break. As much as you’d like to be everywhere at once, you can’t be. 

You can spread the weight by hiring models and staff for the duration of the show. They’re trained to represent your brand and be an extra pair of hands so you feel comfortable and confident they’ll carry the torch when you have other priorities to take care of.  

Learn more about model and staff services  

Social media management

Social media is a powerful tool in the run-up to a show and during the event. Use it in the lead up to build hype and awareness that you’re attending. The goal is to create enough excitement that customers and industry peers will flock to your booth. 

During the show, social media is a great way to keep marketing yourself and reminding people of your presence. From streaming live events to running flash promotions, there’s lots of exciting content you can publish. 

Problems arise when you try juggling too much. Managing your booth, gathering content, and posting to social media is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out. Keeping on top of live social media during a show is a big task, which is why you might outsource it. 

Event florist and plant rentals

Most trade shows take place indoors. For exhibitors, this means being under artificial lights and in air conditioning for days on end. Bringing a bit of nature to your booth can combat the feeling of being stuck inside.

Designing with plants and flowers can be a welcome oasis in a desert of screens, info boards, leaflets, and speaker systems. Plus, plant and floral displays are very practical. They’re great for helping to hide cables and wires.

See examples of event florist and plant rental services

Floral design at Stitch trade show booth.

Choosing the services you need

Businesses take part in trade shows because it’s their chance to promote themselves to their ideal audience. It’s an opportunity to show the very best side of your business.

Costs attached to exhibiting at a show — both financial cost and the demand on company time and resources — means it’s important you have the services and help you need to make sure it’s a success. 

Is this your first show? When working out which services you need start by asking, ‘What’s the core message we want the audience at this particular trade show to understand about our brand?’

Hopefully, your ideas will grow from there until a plan formulates. Sometimes, answering that question is tough. You may be too close to the project so it’s a can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees situation. When this is the case, we can help. By contacting us, we can work with you to plan and organize your trade show exhibition.

Peter Frigeri

Horticulturist. Entrepreneur. Eco-adventurer. Peter Frigeri has been innovating in business since he moved to Las Vegas in 1991 to run trade show operations for Showtime Florists. Just a couple years later, he went out on his own, founding Falcon Floral, and within five years, he evolved that business into Expo Ease. In 2000 he took advantage of technological innovations to expand his company to offer a full suite of event services, from show decor to photography marketing. Meanwhile, in 2009, Peter launched his third business, Gaia Flowers Plants Gifts. With a focus on local and sustainably-grown products, Gaia is also a full-service company, with services ranging from event floral, delivery to commercial plant maintenance. And as if that weren’t enough, Peter is an officer on the boards of two local nonprofits, Great Basin Permaculture and Friends of Gold Butte. In both his personal and professional lives, Peter does everything he can to fight for the preservation of the Earth and its resources, so that his children and grandchildren can enjoy its bounty as much as he does.

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