Tradeshow traffic getting leaner?

At EDN‘s blog, this picture and post about a recent trade show:

I heard a rumor about a customer wondering around somewhere, but nobody could confirm it. Ok, that’s an exaggeration….sort of.

Chicago show last week

Ouch! Luke Schreier at EDN goes on to ponder the fate of shows for his/our industry, along these lines:

Clearly, the way the average engineer finds out about a new multimeter or oscilloscope has changed since 1998 (to say the least). The parallel might be akin to how weird it’s always felt for me to watch the work environment outlined in the AMC television series Mad Men, which is set in the 1960s. Seeing a workspace without a computer on it blows my mind much more than the “three-martini” lunches in that show. In this day and age, who wouldn’t go directly to the internet and search for “multimeter” instead of waiting months for the next big vendor exhibition to kick the tires?

My sales guy for a show last week was a little more specific, sending me this picture and comment:

Bottom line is I doubt if we get any good leads and making a sale based on a lead I would give a less than 10% chance. But all of the competition is attending, so do we go just to show the company banner??

Note the guy to the right yawning.
Note the guy to the right yawning.

So what is the B2Blog wisdom on this? We may have a problem.

Once of my favorite shows last year underperformed. This is a show we did gang-busters in the pit of despair that was 2009. I thought maybe it was a fluke, maybe we didn’t bring our A game. But if I start looking for a trend, maybe shows are waning more than we’d like to think, faster than we’d expect so late in the information revolution.

Unfortunately, that may leave it up to us company marketing wonks to develop our own events, as the human connection is so hugely valuable to business. Ugh. Something else neither myself or my company do well, if at all. Sigh.

6 Replies to “Tradeshow traffic getting leaner?”

  1. I think the pictures say it all. Around South Texas, the oil and gas trade shows still draw a large crowd, but I’m not sure about others. And then there is the question of leads and good leads. That has always caused me to question the money and time spent.

  2. Hello Dave,

    The picture was taken during a time when a technical session was going on. At some shows they keep the show hall open during these technical / keynote / educational sessions, and it is slow like this during those times — always has been.

    If I was an exhibitor at that show, I would ask the show organizer to set up “unopposed show hours,” where the show floor is only open several hours a day, and during those times there are no sessions.

    Also, this show was hit especially hard by the sequester.

    There is a trade show industry group called The Center for Exhibition Industry Research that tracks attendance at trade shows, and, on average across many industries, attendance growth has actually been positive over the past 3 years.

    You can also go to and you’ll see story after story about trade shows hitting new highs for attendance, square footage, and number of exhibitors.

    P.S. I love that you are a real live b2b marketer blogging what you are facing! We are going through the same exercise right now with our print / pdf literature that you describe.

  3. Thanks for chiming in, Mike. And glad you like my blog. I’ve seen enough shows rise and fall over the years to be know trends are hard call by a few bad experiences. There is some magic sauce that makes shows work, and it can wane unexpectedly. My favorite show I mentioned in the post is coming up next week. We’ll see what I have to say about it soon! (And maybe I’ll get back to the paper/PDF dilemma.)

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  5. Just a note that the ‘favorite show’ mentioned above performed well again for us this year. I’ll stop panicking now.

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