Weekly Insights: What Makes a Great Trade Show?

Badges_Votes-12It’s that time of year again: TSNN has announced the five finalists for their “Best of Show” Award and is requesting your vote before October 1. But before you click over to cast that vote, know that it won’t be easy – each of the shows has done innovative and amazing things:

  • Greenbuild International Conference & Expo lives up to their mission with sustainability and community initiatives.
  • International Vision Expo East doesn’t just talk about how they appreciate their exhibitors … they demonstrate it!
  • LA Auto Show Press & Trade Days reinvented their business model.
  • LIGHTFAIR International is leaping head-first into previously under-discussed topics which draw in more attendees.
  • Offshore Technology Conference also re-thought speakers and sessions to be more relevant and essential, and to inspire the “next big thing.”

Visit the TSNN website to learn more about each of these finalists and to cast your vote before October 1.

So what makes a show great? We’ve covered a few ideas in the Trade Show Trailblazers series:

At the recent CEIR Predict Conference in Chicago, Marc Pomerleau, Director of Strategy from FreemanXP issued a challenge to all shows: Don’t simply ask if attendees were satisfied – instead ask how the event fundamentally transformed the way they view the industry and their role in it. (Click to watch his explanation in a short video.)

Wow! That’s a pretty steep challenge! But definitely one that needs to be met in order for trade shows to remain relevant in our modern world. No show will survive if all they do is “satisfy.” To be an award-winning, trailblazing show calls for taking risks and being willing to address the tough issues.

So what shows are rising to the challenge? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Who knows? Maybe we’ll feature that show in a future Trailblazers episode!


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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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