Trade Show TalesBlog

Trade Shows…. Don’t Bother!

May 10th, 2021 6 COMMENTS
custom Exhibit

Trade Shows are Back!

Trade shows are back, and exhibitors are talking about new graphics, giveaways, and Las Vegas. I love the renewed excitement for trade shows… and to some extent, loath it. I get to hear exhibitors grumble about the cost of a display, poor leads, drayage, and their ROI. And, no matter how much we coach them, there’s always a few marketing managers who just don’t get it. They buy cheap, basic displays, don’t do any pre-show marketing, bring the wrong staff, and then take a cavalier approach to show leads. Their results suck, and they wonder why.

It’s not an age thing. Baby boomers are no better than Millennials, Gen X’ers or Gen Y’ers. So, let’s draw a comparison to other advertising. Would most marketers make these advertising choices?


Magazine Ad:

1. So… the black and white ad is cheaper? Yes, I realize this is a glossy color publication, but B&W ads are  “artistic,” and I can run two for the price of one.
2. Thanks for the publication’s circulation numbers and demographics. No need to explain. I’ll review it later in my “reading” room.
3. My unemployed second cousin is designing the ad with a pirated copy of Illustrator. I’m paying him in pizza and PBR.
4. The sales team doesn’t need to see the ad. It’s their job to sell whatever we tell them to sell.
5. That B&W ad didn’t work. I’m not going to advertise there again. Stupid magazine!

Television Commercial:

Pasted image at 2016_01_12 01_40 PM

1. “Video Production for Commercials” [Google Search]. That first one looks just fine.
2. Concept storyboard? Nah! Creativity should be spontaneous!
3. Those 2-4 am slots are cheap. I can run the spots 6 times an hour.
4. Neilsen ratings? That’s for amateurs who don’t trust their “gut.”
5. That television commercial didn’t work. I’m not advertising with them again. Stupid TV station.

Online Banner Ads and PPC:

1. My admin assistant manages our banner ads and PPC. Ruthie — Don’t you handle that?
2. Of course, we have a Google Analytics account. I have the password around here somewhere.
3. $2.50 a click? No brainer. Here’s my credit card. How much could that possibly cost?
4. You saw my banner ad on what site? For what? Oh that’s bad. That’s really bad.
5. That online advertising and PPC didn’t work. I’ve canceled my accounts. Stupid Internet.

Social Media:

1. Blogging? Love it. I’ll post every day for the next year! Starting tomorrow.
2. Who doesn’t love cats and kittens? Let me share.
3. Aren’t LinkedIn and Facebook basically the same? I post the same stuff on both.
4. 75 Tweets today. Where did the day go?
5. That social media didn’t work. What a colossal waste of time. Stupid Social Media.

You get my point. Trade show marketing should be treated with the same intensity, analysis, and professionalism as every other form of marketing. For many companies, it can represent up to 40% of their annual marketing budget; yet, they often see it as a distraction, not an opportunity. If you don’t have time to become an expert, hire an expert. There are many trade show consultants who have devoted their careers to ensure their clients succeed at face-to-face marketing.

Stupid? Not if trade show marketing is done right.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or

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6 Responses to “Trade Shows…. Don’t Bother!”

  1. Dear Mel – I enjoy reading you and Kevin’s Trade Show Tales, but truthfully, I don’t read through all of them. Until this one! You touched on my first love – marketing and advertising, and what you say is so true. It brought back memories of my first trade show analysis – what shows, why, target audience, expected ROI. I presented it to the division managers, and they literally laughed at me. I was 22 years old, very green and very naive – what could I possibly know??

    Fast forward 30 years – I still love this business and can’t see myself ever doing anything else. It’s industry leaders like you who keep this business new and exciting. I will be at Exhibitor – I hope to meet you in person.

    Kind regards,
    Cindy Stephenson
    Account Manager
    Laarhoven Portables & Graphics
    Buford, GA

  2. HI Mel,

    Well written. I typically gloss over many articles, but you kept me to the end.

    Great article, great job!

    Very Best,

    Erik Diedrichsen

    Volume 11 Marketing Inc.
    700 West Center Street #14
    West Bridgewater, MA 02379

    O: 888.MY.VOL.11 x 701
    F: 888.698.6511
    C: 617.823.9111

    Exhibits that speak volumes.

  3. Mel White says:

    Thank you Erik and Cindy. I really appreciate your kind comments.

  4. Liisa says:

    Mel, thank you for this blog post written with sense of humour and knowledge. There is a right channel for every segment and clever people always find a way to measure and make conclusions!

  5. Absolutely right. Too often disappointment at live marketing events is the result of “thinking it’s easy”. My role as a front man for exhibitors is often overlooked and left to staff who are unable to capture and hold attention. Great article, thank you!

  6. Mel White says:

    Thank you for your comment Peter. You couldn’t be more right!

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