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+++ S P E C I A L R E P O R T +++
"Trade Show Tips And Pointers" and
"Which Trade Show is Right For Me?"

 Copyright 1998-2000. George Matyjewicz, GAP Enterprises, Ltd. 
January 28, 2000

Moderator's Comments

Hi All:

As promised, we have another special report today on trade shows. Many list members ask questions about exhibiting and attending trade shows, so I thought this would be of benefit, considering January has some major trade shows going on.

George Matyjewicz, C.M.O.
Moderator, E-Tailer's Digest



Trade Show Tips And Pointers
by: George Matyjewicz 
Copyright 1998-2000. George Matyjewicz, GAP Enterprises, Ltd. 

Since 1983 I have organized and conducted over 350 trade shows and seminars. We frequently consult with clients who are considering trade shows or seminars. Many folks ask for guidance on exhibiting, so we organized it as questions asked of me, with my resulting answers.


Here are some tips and pointers for exhibiting successfully at a trade show. Keep in mind, these are generalized comments. We usually come up with 50 or more tips for every client with whom we assist in planning and exhibiting at a trade show. You would be surprised at the little things people forget -- like pencils.

I don't care what kind of show it is, or where it is, you can generate traffic! All you have to do is plan.

Question: George, you are the Trade Show expert, what do you think the most common errors are that people make when setting up their exhibition space?

Answer: Not planning ahead. What is your goal with the trade show? Are you interested in meeting qualified prospects or merely gathering business cards (suspects)? You can buy a list of suspects much cheaper than at a trade show. 

Not sure if you mean the physical space or the presence, but the answer applies to both. A lot of people think their presence at a trade show will automatically bring them business. Wrong! 

1.Where is your booth located? 
2.What's the traffic like at the show and your location? Are you near the bathrooms or food booth (good) or in a last corridor (bad). 
3.Who is the target audience coming to the show? Decision makers? 
4.Do you have a list of last year's attendees and have you sent them a letter telling them where you are and what you offer? By the way, if the show does not give out that list to you as an exhibitor, don't exhibit. 
5.Do you have something new to kick off at this show? 
6.Did you notify the press of your press conference at your booth to announce something new? They will come and look forward to being there. 
7.Did your partners and sales staff contact their top prospects to be sure they are coming to your booth? Did you coordinate appointment times? 
8.Do you have literature, business cards, prospect interest forms, etc. Do you need and have the giveaways? 
9.Did you plan to have a review meeting with your staff every day after the show to review the prospects and determine how to handle them? 
10.Did you prepare a series of letters to the press, prospects and the current attendees that will be sent out within 5 days of the show's ending? 

Needless to say the list goes on. And it is a longer list when it comes to what is to be done at the show.

Question: How do we get people into our booth?

Answer: Understand how traffic flows at a trade show -- how do people walk a trade show. Then set up your booth up accordingly. They never come right up to your booth first. Rather they walk down the middle of an aisle, and look at booths to their left and right. Hence you better have something that will attract them from mid-aisle. For each industry there are different exhibits, but some general ideas that work are: 

1.A list of prominent clients. 
2.A simple statement of the benefits of using you. 
3.Your differentiation strategy. 

Also, you should plan ahead and schedule appointments before the show. Appointments at your booth are prospects. Folks walking by are suspects. When there are no prospects at the booth, or one of the sales folks are not busy they must go into the aisle and drag people in. Yes, to you attendees, it's my group that's a PITA. But, we paid to be there, and we need the business.

I don't believe in the magic shows, card tricks, etc to attract an audience. I started the trend of having speakers at a booth many years ago. We had an 8x8 booth in a 10x20 space. We put 16 chairs in part of the booth facing a podium and had a speaker talk about our product (an Executive Information Solution software package). The booth was jammed, and folks were standing in the aisle.

We even got folks from surrounding booths to visit.

To do a show right you need to know the show and your target, and how to position yourself. For example in retail there are a number of major shows -- National Retail Federation and NRF.com (formerly, and still affectionately known as RISCon) being two. The NRF is the biggest (60,000+) and has everything you can ever need. RISCon is the smallest by far (3,000). RISCon is in the Fall and NRF is in January.

If I was selling retail information systems and had my druthers and could only do one show a year it would be RISCon. The attendees are only MIS executives. They come to see what's new, line up some folks for further review through the end of the year, and come back with the CEO's in January to buy.

Many years ago when I joined a NYSE-traded company as North American Marketing Manager they did 30+ trade shows a year in two industries -- retail and apparel. I cut it back to three - the two above and Bobbin for apparel. The result: we got a lot more business at a lot less cost! With 30+ shows the sales force was collecting business cards. With three they were selling.

If you do a show well, you will have qualified prospects at your booth.

Question: What size or type of booth should we have?

Answer: You should obtain the most professional looking booth that you can afford. Booths should be modular that can be changed depending on the show. For example, you can do very well with an 8x8 booth even if you are in a 10x20 space, if you do it right (see above). And booths should be changed every three years -- they get stale.

Question: Are trade shows cost effective?

Answer: Trade shows are probably the highest cost per lead of any form of marketing! And the "number of leads generated" is often the criteria used to justify the shows. Hence folks go for quantity rather than quality. (It's like saying you got a kzillion visitors to your web site, when the real measurement should be how much business). 

You will probably find the costs to be $100-200 per lead. So it is important to qualify your leads ahead of time. Otherwise you are chasing some very expensive garbage. You need to be able to establish a realistic closing period for leads.

But, there are other benefits to trade shows, like announcement of new products and the press coverage. You need to weigh all the costs to see if they are worthwhile.

And don't believe that age-old argument that when you stop doing a trade show you are dead. Sure, your competitors will blast you and take advantage of you lack of presence for a couple of months. Then your other promotion efforts override their slams, and you move on to more profitable business.

Question: How do we qualify suspects at a trade show?

Answer: First identify your ideal target market, i.e., a privately-held company doing $10 million to $30 million in sales with a good management team, selling products (rather than services) to businesses in the Northeast U.S. Then develop a series of qualifying questions to ask at the booth that will cut to the chase. 

With these qualifying questions, somebody standing in the aisle can be a great prospect, especially if the booth is slow, and sales folks are doing nothing. Some people are shy and don't like going up to a booth (very similar to lurkers on a discussion list). Or they may misinterpret the message you are presenting, and don't think you can do the job for them.

Question: Why do companies quit exhibiting at trade shows?

Answer: There are many reasons, like the change in attendance or the cost of exhibiting. Comdex is a good example. It used to be a show for computer companies to announce their new products and was geared towards business folks attending. Now it is a consumer electronics show. The National Retail Federation Show has been held in NYC in January for ever. They were in two hotels -- the Hilton and spillover at the Sheraton. You had to wait 10 years before you got out of the Sheraton and went to "the main show." Three years ago they had no exhibitors at the Sheraton. Then they moved to the Javitts Center, and are now considering moving out of NYC.

The cost of the NRF for a small 10x10 booth is approx $12,000. Whereas the Super Show in Atlanta, which is the same target, but much bigger can be done for $5,000. The Super Show is so big, that Nike has an entire floor! That show will be moving to Las Vegas next year.

So, a lot of people are dropping out.

Question: How can I find trade shows geared towards my business?

Answer: On the Net there are some excellent sources, which gives you demographics, layouts, costs, dates, etc. Recently a client wanted to exhibit at the Jewelry Show in NYC, which is very expensive. We found they could do three regional shows with a larger, more focused audience for less money.

The online resources include: 

Trade Show Central http://www.tscentral.com 
Trade Show Network News http://www.tsnn.com. 
National Retail Federation http://nrf.com (for retail shows) 

Question: Should I take a suite instead of exhibiting at the show?

Answer: It depends on the show and what you are trying to accomplish. A suite by itself may be good, but you are missing the attendees of the show. You are only dealing with invited guests, and for that you don't need a show. If you know your target and this is an opportunity to get them all in one room, since they will be in for the show, consider a seminar before or after the show.

Question: Should I sponsor a hospitality party at a show?

Answer: It depends on what you are trying to accomplish and your budget. Hospitality suites are a great way to socialize with folks and get to know more about them in a relaxed atmosphere. If you can afford it, do it.

Question: What do you think makes a show good or not?

Answer: There are a lot of criteria to use, with decision makers and the right target attending being the most major criteria.

In the retail industry for example, there are a lot of shows, and many are for the buyers of merchandise to be sold in stores. If you are selling professional services, or computer systems you are at the wrong show.

Some professionals attend shows to get CPE credits and your talk or your exhibit may be merely a method for them to get credits.

Question: If I exhibit at trade shows and then stop, won't that reflect negatively on my company?

Answer: Don't believe that age-old argument that when you stop doing a trade show you are dead. Sure, your competitors will blast you and take advantage of your lack of presence for a couple of months. Then your other promotion efforts override their slams, and you move on to more profitable business.

If the competition is dumb enough to so much as mention you, you're ahead of the game. When you are alive and better than ever, it can sure sour them in others' eyes to suggest the opposite when it's not true.

Some industries are cutthroat. One that comes to mind is software for the paper industry. I have never seen such a cutthroat group, and they spend the better part of their life fighting each other. I did a major consulting engagement with one of them, and got them to focus on business, their strengths and their target and forget the competition. And it worked - they focused their time and energy on the prospects needs and how to solve those needs and generated a lot more business.

Question: What should I expect as prospects at a trade show?

Answer: Be sure you know who will be attending. A show attended by production executives where you are selling sales tools is a waste. On the other hand, if you were selling production software the targeted group is good. If you target companies doing $200 million in sales, and the show caters to SOHO's you have the wrong show. 

The makeup of the group is readily available from show organizers. A suspect base of 10-15% is too low, and the show isn't worth the effort. At least not to me or my clients. Your suspect base should be 25-40% of the total attendees.

Question: How much business can I expect to close at a trade show?

Answer: Depends on the show. I have organized and conducted over 350 trade shows and seminars and only closed business twice at a show. Yet in the fashion industry, virtually all purchasing is done at shows. They have what is known as "market week" a couple of times a year, depending on the industry. Buyers come to place orders.

For purchasing of computer systems, I always recommend clients go to trade shows to see what is being offered, select a couple that look good, and set up appointments back at their office.

Question: What would be the best approach to consider exhibiting at a trade show?

Answer: Assuming an existing product or service line, in order of importance and budget it would be: 

1.Trade show and private suite for invited guests and pre-show seminar for invited guests. 
2.Trade show 
3.Pre-show seminar and suite 
4.Pre-show seminar 

Question: A trade show wants to group all homogenous exhibitors together, i.e., all software companies, lawyers, consultants, etc. Should I exhibit?

Answer: This approach is wonderful for the attendee who can see all he/she wants to see in one section. How confidant are you? How well can you differentiate your business from the competition? If you are good at what you do, and can differentiate your company, you will win in this situation. For a novice exhibitor you will be destroyed. I personally would love it, and will guarantee to be the best of the group.

Question: At our last show our booth location was horrible. What should I have done?

Answer: That's your fault for not looking at the floor plan ahead of time and determining if the location was feasible. 

Question: Where does the marketing of the show fit in the guilt queue

Answer: You evaluate the merits of a trade show by looking at the stats, such as those available from the sources stated above. You look at who the show is geared towards, and who normally attends, i.e., business owners and key executives -- decision makers. Obviously it has to be in your market area. 

Some exhibitors want to know who is exhibiting, but I don't. Some of the more successful shows were out of the main stream, neglected by the competition. 

You can't evaluate the cost vs attendees, as it is unreliable, unfortunately. 

Once you have evaluated a show, and determine whether it fits into your marketing plans, you do the show three times and evaluate the results. Why three times? Because the mentality of show goers is to see if you have staying power before buying from you.

Then you make an "efforts vs results" decision. What does the show cost vs the results and can you do better elsewhere? By the way, most large companies have folks on staff whose job is to select and evaluate shows.

A show can be good at the beginning, and die years later. iWorld is a classic example. 

COMDEX has become the show to announce new products to the consumer. I had a client with a chain of sporting goods stores, where one of the executives attends COMDEX each year to see what's new that will help them with technology in their stores. The partners who are involved with merchandising attend the fashion trade shows to buy ($millions at a time at each show).


Trade shows if planned well can be very lucrative for you. Without proper planning and follow up, you are wasting your time and money.

For assistance with a seminar or trade show at your organization, contact George at georgem(at)gapent.com

Copyright 1998. George Matyjewicz, GAP Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved. 

+ Trade Shows, Seminars & Conferences

Which Trade Show is Right For Me?
By George Matyjewicz

As somebody who has been a speaker at, exhibited at or attended over 350 trade shows and seminars since 1983, I am often asked, "What trade show is right for me." To which I answer, "It depends on what you want to accomplish." If you are attending trade shows or seminars, understand that they serve three purposes:

1. An information source for new products, services, technology, industry trends, etc.
2. A place to touch and feel and order new products.
3. A social gathering to learn what colleagues are doing and to keep your business network working.

If you are exhibiting at trade shows you need to address the five "whys" as you would in any sell cycle:

1. Who is attending? (CEO, buyer, CTO, etc)
2. What type business and what size company?
3. Where are they located?
4. When is the show?
5. Where is the show?

It isn't always that easy to select the right show for you. Many companies looking to exhibit look at the number of attendees and divide that into the cost of the show which supposedly yields the cost of a prospect (or suspect). BIG MISTAKE! If the attendees are too generalized, the bulk of them may not be your target audience.

The same holds true no matter what you are selling. For example, let's say you are selling gift items to large retail chains. Your target market is merchandise managers for the product line you carry, rather than individual buyers. Here you would exhibit at the national shows in Atlanta or New York, or the international shows in Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Germany or Sao Paulo, Brazil. Depending on the size of the company you want to attract, you may consider the secondary gift shows in Chicago, Dallas or Los Angeles. If you sell to "mom & pop" stores and only in a particular region of the country, then you should consider regional shows closer to home. 

If you are a buyer, you need to go through the same exercise. What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for a new computer system? Then do NRF.com and NRF. Are you considering a new "cyber store?" Definitely consider one of the e-Tail shows that Worldwide Business Research http://wbresearch.com conducts. They have speakers who "have been there and done that." Are you looking to purchase new gift items for your store, or are you looking for new trends and ideas? Attend one of the national (or international) gift shows.

If you do search for shows online, you can get a wealth of information to help you decide, i.e., target market, issues addressed, exhibitor information, size of the show, number of attendees at last show, etc. And, if there isn't enough information available online, you can always contact the show organizers for more information. If you know of an organization who manages multiple shows, you can contact them for a schedule of shows available. 

For the National Retail Federation shows I went to their site http://www.nrf.com/events/ and obtained:

Event Name: NRF Annual Convention & Expo 
Date: Jan 16-19, 2000 
Location: New York, NY, United States 
Venue: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center 
Frequency: Annual

Industry or Topic: Retail 

The NRF Annual Convention and EXPO provides more access to experts in the fields of:
Strategic Issues, Marketing, Supply Chain, Human Resources, Internet Retailing, Independent Retailing, Merchandising & Store Design, Information Technology, Financial Management, and more.

Event Name: NRF.com - Retailing and Technology in the New Economy
Date: September 24 - 27, 2000
Location: San Diego, CA , United States 
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Frequency: Annual

Retail technology and internet

While this years show is in San Diego, NRF.com bounces around the U.S. each year.

I also know that George Little Management, Inc. is a major player in managing gift shows. At their site http://www.glmshows.com/ I found...

"George Little Management, Inc. has nearly a century history of managing and producing quality trade shows for the gift and other industries. You can learn more about the company's history here or go directly to information about any of these shows:"

American Hotel & Motel Association (AH&MA) Annual Conference & Leadership Forum/ The
Lodging Expo 
Boston Gift Show® 
Chicago Gift Show® 
Dallas National Gift & Home Accessories Show* 
Gourmet Products Show® 
HSMAI Affordable Meetings Exposition And Conference 
HSMAI's Affordable Meetings West 
International Contemporary Furniture Fair® 
International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show® 
National Stationery Show® 
New York City Marathon® Expo 
New York Home Textiles Show® 
New York International Gift Fair® 
San Francisco International Gift Fair® 
Washington Gift Show® 

I could have gotten a lot of detail about each show, as they had hyperlinks for the above shows. 

Or. I could get a list of shows from Trade Show Central or Trade Show Network News. They also have a search capability which allows you to search on many criteria including industry, location, venue, date, etc. Here are some that are worthwhile for the gift industry:

Major National Shows:
Event Name: Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market 
Date: Jan 8-12, 2000 
Location: Atlanta, GA, United States 
Venue: America's Mart 
Frequency: Annual 

Exhibits Description: 
Bed, Bath & Linen, Decorative Pillows, Personal Care Products, Cash and Carry Jewelry, Collectible Dolls, Country Collectibles, Designer Stationery, Garden Products, Giftware, Gourmet and Housewares, Handcrafted Design, High Design, Holiday, Floral, Baskets, Jewelry and Fashion Accessories, Kids Collection, Mens Gifts, Multi Cultural Gifts, Museum, Souvenir and Trend, Tabletop and Fine Arts 

Housewares & Appliances, Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores, Home/Office Furnishings & Products, Interior Design Services 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: 32667 
Total Attendance: 43000 
International Attendance: 12% 
Total Exhibitors: 2200 

Event Name: New York International Gift Fair 
Date: Jan 23-27, 2000 
Location: New York, NY, United States 
Venue: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center 
Frequency: Biannual 

Attendee Description: 
Buyers From Department, Specialty and Jewelry Stores, Interior Design and Gift Shops, Museums, Mail Order Catalogs, Importers and Distributors. 

Exhibits Description: 
General Giftware, Housewares, Decorative Accessories, Personal Accessories, Contemporary Design Products, Traditional and Contemporary Crafts, Juvenile Products, Museum Gifts, Tabletop and Housewares, and Floral Products. 

Industry or Topic: 
Consumer Goods, Housewares & Appliances, Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores, Home/Office Furnishings & Products, Horticulture, Gardening & Landscaping 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: 56667 
Total Attendance: 45000 
International Attendance: 13% 
Total Exhibitors: 2200 
International Exhibitors: 13%

International Shows:
Event Name: Premiere 
Web Page: http://www.usa.messefrankfurt.com 
Date: Jan 29-Feb 2, 2000 
Location: Frankfurt, Germany 
Venue: Messe - Frankfurt 
Frequency: Annual 

Exhibits Description: 
Paper Products, Office Supplies, Stationery, Gifts, Christmas Articles, Novelties, Florist's Articles, Perfumery, Toiletries,Cosmetics, Hairdresser's Supplies 

Business Equipment & Supplies, Consumer Goods, Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores, Personal Care 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: 89562 
Total Attendance: 52642 
International Attendance: 40%
Total Exhibitors: 2606
International Exhibitors: 50%

Event Name: Asian Gifts Premium & Household Products Show 
Date: Oct 18-21, 2000
Location: Hong Kong, China 
Venue: Venue Unknown 
Frequency: Annual

Housewares & Appliances, Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: Unknown
Total Attendance: 19800
International Attendance: 14%
Total Exhibitors: 4000 
International Exhibitors: Unknown

Regional or Smaller National Shows:
Event Name: Dallas National Gift & Home Accessories Show 
Date: Jan 8-11, 2000 
Location: Dallas, TX, United States 
Venue: Dallas Market Hall 
Frequency: Biannual 

Event Description: 
An integrated event for gift, decorative accessories, lighting, furniture, and floral industries. It is the medium to expand your presence, and sales in the Southern and Midwestern United States. 

Attendee Description: 
Wholesale buyers and retailers 

Exhibits Description: 
Six distinct sections including: at Home, Garden & Floral Accents, Just Kidstuff, Personal Style, General Gift and Southwest Accents. 

Industry or Topic: 
Giftware, China/Dinnerware, Decorative Accessories, Personal Accessories, Home/Office Furnishings & Products, Household & Institutional Furniture Manuf. 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: Unknown
Total Attendance: 30,000 
International Attendance: Unknown
Total Exhibitors: 1,000
International Exhibitors: Unknown

Date: Jan 26-Feb 2, 2000 
Location: Chicago, IL, United States 
Venue: Chicago Merchandise Mart 
Frequency: Annual

Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: 6000
Total Attendance: 9,996
International Attendance: 9%
Total Exhibitors: 500
International Exhibitors: 11% 

Event Name: California Gift Show 
Date: Jan 22-25, 2000 
Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States
Venue: Convention Center
Frequency: Biannual

Attendee Description: 
Qualified Specialty Retailers, Gallery Managers, Gift & Department Store Managers 

Exhibits Description: 
Contemporary Crafts, Stationery, Native American Indian Handicrafts, Tabletop, General Gift, Gourmet, Decorative Accessories, Jewelry, Fashion Accessories, Souvenirs & Novelty Items, American Contemporary Crafts, Collectibles, Floral Baskets, and Related Items 

Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: 31,889
Total Attendance: 42000 
International Attendance: 11%
Total Exhibitors: 1,550
International Exhibitors: 27%

Event Name: Dallas Super Market 
Date: Jan 6-13, 2000 
Location: Dallas, TX, United States
Venue: Dallas Market Hall 
Frequency: Annual 

Event Description: 
National gift & decorative accessories, floral show, bed, bath & linen, gourmet food, hospital gift shop, collectibles, stationery, tabletop, jewelry, and toy show. 

Franchising & Business Opportunities, Consumer Goods, Food & Beverage, Giftware, China/Dinnerware, Decorative Accessories, Gift, Novelty & Souvenir Stores, Jewelry & Silverware, Jewelry & Watch Wholesalers, Linens, Personal Accessories, Retail 

Previous Event Information 
Total Square Meters: 30,000 
Total Attendance: 30,000
International Attendance: 7%
Total Exhibitors: 2,000
International Exhibitors: 10% 

Have an successful show. And use these resources to find the shows that are right for you.


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Copyright 1997-2002 GAP Enterprises, Ltd.
Contact webmaster(at)gapent.com with any comments or questions about this site.
Last modified February 23, 2005
Copyright 1998-2000 GAP Enterprises, Ltd.
Contact webmaster(at)gapent.com with any comments or questions about this site.
Last modified Sunday, February 16, 2003