What Is Exhibitions
Also referred to as trade shows, exhibitions are usually massive events that draw thousands of visitors and exhibitors from around the world. They can last anywhere from several days to a week. Exhibitions are usually very industry-specific and have a well-defined target market.
Exhibitors go to trade shows to present and promote their product or service, drive business, and liaise with existing and potential partners. Industry professionals go to network, find clients or jobs, and discover new ways to solve problems.
Common activities at exhibitions can include one, a mix of, or all of the activities present at conferences, as well as:
- Networking events: Trade shows often have networking parties for subgroups among their attendees. This is a great place to meet potential partners, discuss collaborations, and exchange thoughts on current trends.
- Awards: An award show is part of many exhibitions and honours industry leaders for their achievements. It also gives winners quite a PR and marketing push. Even if you’re not up for an award, it’s worth checking out the nominees for inspiration.
- New business pitches: Since trade shows want to promote growth and innovation in their industry, there’s often a dedicated event for new business pitches. It’s great for start-ups to gain visibility, funding, clients, and job applicants.
Exhibitions can be classified into two general types: trade exhibitions and consumer exhibitions.
Trade exhibitions are generally designed to meet the needs of one particular type of business or product or country. Only people involved in the field are invited to attend and the general public is rarely admitted.
Types of Trade Exhibitions
Technology Industry Trade Shows
In 2021, technology is just about everywhere, and nowhere is the progress of technology more evident than at a tech exhibition. Depending on their size and public profile, technology trade shows entice entrepreneurs, inventors, CEOs, and consumers from all over the world to travel to the convention and see what’s been going on in the world of electronics, robotics, computers, and more.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the largest retail electronics trade show in the United States. The show is not open to the general public, but instead only for those who already work in the tech industry. Those people can make the trek to the Las Vegas Convention Center in January of each year can see the latest in self-driving vehicles, televisions, smart devices, and video gaming.
While at the CES exhibition, visitors can not only see the hot new products coming soon to market, but they can also attend speaking sessions featuring industry experts, who generally talk about the state of the tech industry.
Another such event is InfoComm, a technology trade show focusing on audio and visual communications systems. Attendees pay $300 for the three-day event at the Las Vegas Convention Center and can then view the most recent technological developments of the almost 1,000 company participants at the show. Products on offer include those in the video, digital signage, home security, and virtual reality (VR) categories. Approximately 40,000 people attend each InfoComm exhibition, making it one of the heavy hitters among tech trade shows.
Manufacturing Industry Trade Shows
Somewhat related to the technology industry, manufacturing is its own distinct commercial sector that in 2021 has a ton going on. Build Expo USA, for instance, is a free manufacturing exhibition held in numerous cities throughout the United States every year. Show attendees can view recent developments in roofing and other construction materials, observe product demonstrations, and attend free educational seminars. Something new is always happening in the world of manufacturing, including the creation of new methods and materials for green construction.
Another manufacturing exhibition option is the annual Duluth Energy Design Conference & Expo. Geared toward developments in sustainable construction, this trade show features participants specializing in renewable energy, authoritative design, and the best practices of general construction. As with most trade shows, this conference affords visitors plenty of opportunities for networking with colleagues and consumers, with frequent breaks and receptions.
Healthcare Industry Trade Shows
Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing professional industries in the world, so it makes sense that trade exhibitions centered around healthcare technology, specialties, and careers would generate large crowds and lots of public attention.
There’s no shortage of healthcare exhibitions in just the United States alone. Take the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held in the group’s home city of Chicago. Tens of thousands of attendees flock to this trade show every year to see recent developments in the field of radiology. Exhibition participants showcase radiology technology, laboratory supplies, artificial intelligence, and more. Each show has a theme that engenders healthcare professionals to present their own research at the exhibition, making the Radiological Society of North America’s annual convention one of the most innovative in the healthcare field.
In that same vein, another, similar trade exhibition displaying recent accomplishments in a healthcare field is the yearly convention of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This one is held in a different location every year, but its focus is always to advance understanding of orthopedics, musculoskeletal diseases, and orthopedic surgical techniques.
Scores of other healthcare trade shows occur every year throughout the United States, including the Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference and the annual meetings of the American Society of Hematology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Restaurant & Food Industry Trade Shows
Trade exhibitions showcasing restaurants and food are on the thematically lighter side of the trade show scale, but that doesn’t make them any less important to the businesses that participate in them. For instance, one such show is the annual conference of the School Nutrition Association, which provides healthy, affordable food to American school students. The association’s annual meeting hosts suppliers of school kitchen equipment and food, educational speakers, and nutrition directors from schools themselves. Attendees can attend workshops and speaking engagements focusing on student nutrition.
Meanwhile, a more corporate type of restaurant and food trade show is the annual exhibition of the National Restaurant Association. This trade show is directed toward American restaurants, but it attracts tens of thousands of consumers from all over the world. Attendees can investigate the latest creations in food, drinks, and food-service solutions offered by exhibitors.
For customers interested in whole foods, the United Fresh Convention & Expo assembles a multitude of exhibitors selling fresh produce and displaying new methods and equipment for growing. The expo aims to place professionals from different parts of the buying chain together in the same room, meaning growers, suppliers, and retailers can talk to one another and acquire new professional contacts.
Arts & Crafts Industry Trade Shows
Artists and craft makers are always looking to catch the attention of art gallery owners, retail stores, and consumers—and arts and crafts trade shows are the perfect opportunities to do just that.
At arts and crafts shows, skilled artists will find opportunities to meet new customers and take their reach to the next level. No matter where you are located, there are hundreds of arts and crafts expos for a reason—all the way from modern to vintage, and from jewelry and pottery to photography and sculptures.
Consumer exhibitions are horizontal markets. They usually involve a range of products from a number of different industries on display to the general public. Examples of this kind of event are home, boat and travel shows. Consumer shows may also be designed to attract a particular demographic (young women, retirees) or people with a specific hobby or interest (craft, gardening, pets).
Shows may be built around a particular product or service (car shows, boat shows, computer shows, travel shows) or a particular theme (homemaking).