What is a trade show? Definition and examples

A trade show,  trade fair, or exposition is an exhibition in which companies promote their products and services. Most trade shows focus on a particular industry, such as aviation, computers, tourism, smartphones, automobiles, etc.

Trade fairs are held in a large conference/convention center or other indoor venue in which members of a specific industry demonstrate, display, and talk about what they aim to sell with visitors. Not all of them are indoors. For example, air shows are held outdoors.

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CeBIT 2010 Trade Show at the Hanover Fairground, the world’s biggest ground exposition. This is just the IBM stand. (Image: Wikipedia)

The largest aerospace-industry show in the world occurs annually in Paris. The UK’s Farnborough and Dubai Air Show are the second and third largest respectively.

Shopify has the following definition of the term:

“A trade show is an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services. Major trade shows usually take place in convention centers in larger cities and last several days.”

Who sponsors a trade show?

In most cases, trade associations sponsor expositions at different venues across the world. There are literally thousands of large, medium, and small size shows every year globally.

Some are open to the general public, but in most of the major ones, only company representatives, association members, dignitaries, and journalists can attend.

If you want to find associations for specific industries, check in the Encyclopedia of Associations.

At the Paris Air Show 2019, 2,450 companies exhibited, and customers placed over $140 billion’s worth of orders. (Image: www.siae.fr)

Finding new customers

If you work in a company or own one and would like to expand your customers base, consider attending a trade show. They are great places for businesses that want to grow.

Entrepreneur.com has the following quote regarding a study on trade fairs:

“According to a study conducted by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 86 percent of show attendees were the decision-maker or influenced buying decisions, yet 85 percent had not been called on by a salesperson before the show.”

Benefits of attending a trade show

Apart from giving a business credibility and visibility, trade shows offer many other benefits for different sized companies.

Learn more about your sector

In a trade fair, company representatives have the opportunity to find out what is going on in their industry. They can get up to date with latest developments, technologies, trends, etc.

It is also a place where you can get a good look at what your competitors are doing regarding new products and marketing strategies. If you are really observant, you will get a better idea of what does and does not work commercially in your marketplace.


They are great places for generating new leads. People attending such events want to find out more about the goods or services that your business sells. It is a well targeted pool of consumers. Many of them have the authority and perhaps also the inclination to make deals there and then.

Enhance your brand

A brand is the personality of a company or product. It is one of the most important aspects of a business. Customers, prospects, and other consumers see in your brand what you and your company stand for, and what standards of quality, customer service, etc., they expect to receive.

Your brand will receive a significant boost if you attend an exposition. It is a great way of informing people in your market that you are a serious, reliable, and quality player.

Cost effective

Paying for your stand, flight, accommodation, and meals away may sound expensive. However, several studies have shown that they are more cost effective for gaining leads and customers than most other sales and marketing strategies.

Business 2 Community says the following regarding the cost effectiveness of trade fairs:

“Though you might have a larger initial investment to showcase your business at a trade show than other advertising or networking methods, the cost to convert a prospect into a sale is often much lower than other alternatives.”

“With proper research and planning, trade shows are one of the most cost-effective sources of leads and sales possible.”

Boost customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is all about keeping your existing client base and getting them to keep coming back for more. In a trade show, you can visit your existing clients face-to-face. In today’s business world where emails and Skype calls dominate, companies that don’t see their existing customers face-to-face can lose out if their competitors do.

According to an Oxford Economics study, face-to-face meetings are the best way to enhance customer-supplier relationships.

Final thoughts

We hope you now have a better idea about what a trade show is and why it can benefit your business. If you have not included them as part of your marketing strategy, perhaps you may consider doing so now.