Know When to “Dump” Your Show…and How To Find a Better One

May 15, 2020

Sofia Troutman

Sofia Troutman is the Senior Digital Marketing and Product Innovation Manager for Skyline Exhibits. Sofia heads up Skyline’s marketing efforts in new product development and management, lead generation, exhibitor education, industry relations and market research.

With the majority of live trade shows put on ice until later this year or 2021, now is the time for many exhibiting companies to re-evaluate their show calendars and weed out those events that are no longer working for their sales and marketing goals. But how do you know whether to stay or go? Read on to learn the telltale signs of when it’s time to move on to new opportunities.

You know the feeling when you just went to a trade show and it was not as successful as you know it should be? Whether you did a formal ROI analysis or just noticed that the lead quality (or quantity) was not worth the time and money you just invested in getting there, it’s time to take another look at your event program and decide if it’s time to say goodbye to this one. Here are some key things to consider:

Are You Just Not Compatible?

Maybe this is a regional show and you need a national audience. Maybe the industry alignment is not quite there. Review the show audit, attendee lists or demographic reports and determine if that is the case.

Have You Grown Apart?

It is possible that this was the perfect show for your company to exhibit at five years ago but your company or the industry have changed. Determine whether your company’s offerings or goals have changed. Are they still in line with what you can get from this show or event now and in the future?

Have You Talked It Out?

It is usually worthwhile to approach the show organizer and express the concerns you may have. Especially if you are a long-term exhibitor or if you have a large booth, they will want to make sure they can keep your business. Let them know if you are concerned about lead quality, promotion levels or lack of sponsorship opportunities.

Do You Have Better Prospects?

No one has an unlimited marketing budget. The show or event you attend may still be relevant but if the attendance, service and lead quality are not there, it is time to see if there is another show or event that can get you a better return on investment.

Is Your Effort Paying Off?

The key deciding factor in whether to stay with your show is to calculate your ROI. You can use our ROI calculator to enter all your expenses and compare them to your estimated revenues generated from your show presence. You may also want to estimate any additional benefits you may get from the show that are not sales-related, such as additional exposure. However, if the numbers do not show a positive ROI, it is probably time to look elsewhere.

Evaluate Alternatives

In addition to looking at a trade show calendar, there are many easy ways to find good face-to-face events. A good place to start is a Google search with your industry and the words “trade show or event.” You may also want to look at any associations your company belongs to. Also, don’t forget to ask your top prospects or clients which face-to-face events they are attending. If you are interested in regional events you may want to look at convention centers in those areas or look in Eventbrite for small local shows. Once you identify some events, plan to look at their demographic information, cost of exhibiting, sponsorships and other benefits. It is also a great idea to visit the show before committing to exhibiting.

Get Out There!

Once you identified some alternatives and maybe even walked some shows, it is time to “dip your toe in the water.” Maybe exhibit at an event in a small space or buy a small sponsorship at an event. You will be able to assess the service of the show organizer, see firsthand the quality of the attendees and evaluate your return. Another option may be to organize your own event or to partner with another company to do it together and see if that is a better fit to help you grow your leads and your revenue.


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