The Most Overlooked Key to Your Exhibiting Success in 2019


As we wind down 2018 and look forward to 2019, I have two important questions for you:

  1. What percent of the marketing budget do you think companies allocate to exhibit/event marketing?
  2. What percent of marketing professionals with college degrees received exhibit marketing as part of their university curriculum?

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, the average business-to-business company in North America spends 41.3% of the marketing budget on tradeshows.

According to informal research, 98% of marketing professionals with a marketing degree received an hour or less of exhibiting education.

As a leading tradeshow productivity expert, I am often asked, “What is the single most important key to making tradeshows deliver better results for our company?”. People expect me to tell them things like “get a better booth location”, “build a bigger, flashier exhibit”, “do a better job promoting your exhibit”, “demonstrate your products better”, “capture better leads” and things like that.

All of these things can help. But when I tell them the single most important key to making tradeshows deliver better results is to expand their company’s exhibiting knowledge, they look surprised. They tell me “we know how to exhibit, we’ve been doing it for years.” I then ask them to tell me about the results their exhibit program is delivering, and far too few exhibitors can speak of specific and meaningful results. They all seem to know what they are spending, but too few know what they are really getting.

The question of how to make tradeshows deliver results is a very poignant question because many companies’ exhibit programs fail to deliver measurable and meaningful results. I believe the lack of formal exhibiting knowledge is one of the main reasons. Consider these shocking exhibiting industry statistics:

  • Only 24% of exhibitors set objectives for tradeshows
  • Less than 20% of exhibitors do any form of targeted pre-show marketing.
  • 84% of booth staffers have never received training on how to work a tradeshow
  • 76% of sales people views tradeshow leads as “cold” calls.
  • 87% of tradeshow leads captured are never effectively followed up on.
  • Only 35% of exhibitors have any organized form of post-show measurement.

These statistics point to a major problem.  Marketing departments are spending over 40% of their marketing budget on tradeshows. Sales department staff are asked to work the exhibit, often against their will or desire. Both departments spend significant financial and human capital, and both with very little formal education or training on how to best do so.

Tradeshows have changed in complexity over the last several years. The body of knowledge on how to make tradeshows productive and profitable has exploded. And far too few exhibitors are keeping up with the changes and seeking out the latest thinking and best exhibiting practices. Many companies are operating on an exhibiting model that is outdated.

So where do you look for the changes and latest and best exhibiting practices? While there are many good resources, the show organizer is a great place to start.  Make sure you and the key people in your marketing and sales departments visit their website and look for exhibitor educational resources.  Another great source is Exhibitor Magazine.  They have numerous articles online on a variety of exhibiting topics. And, of course, you could work with a tradeshow productivity expert.

So the big question is, what are you going to do to expand your company’s exhibiting know how in 2019? Sometimes just one or two new ideas can make a big difference in the results you’re getting!