Tradeshow, what is it good for?


Wanna get free consulting answers? Today I responded to this excellent question on

“I’ve been grappling with this question for a while. We exhibit at many tradeshows, some are significant national or international shows, and many are regional table-top type events.
We exhibit because certain people in the organization (usually sales folks) think we should. And, when questioned, they are always steadfast in the defense of their argument to attend (which is usually summed up as the show is a “must do” in their market). We spend a considerable amount in booth designs, space rental, logistics etc… all based on opinions.
I’m looking to find a way to measure the effectiveness of shows – above and beyond leads generated. I feel that leads generated is a misleading metric because, by default we’ll get more leads at bigger events – that doesn’t mean they are better.
Does anyone have any tips on measuring trade show effectiveness with a view to assessing whether we should go to a show, and if so how much focus we should put on it?”

My answer:

“Hi Jason,

Great question. Actual conversion from tradeshow leads to purchases is very important, and it indeed includes the quality, not just the quality of leads – check out how Avaya did so in the case study for I find return on investment assessments especially useful for the non-essential spendings on “booth designs, space rental, logistics etc.” As to the essence of participating in the tradeshow in the first place, it is also important to consider its strategic role for your company. Despite my best attempts at quantifying the payoff of marketing actions, some spending items are just ‘needed to play the game’: they put your firm on the map for prospective customers, boost the morale of your employees and retailers and make later sales efforts more effective (‘our company is a key player in this market, as reflected in its success on tradeshow X’).

Thus my proposed compromise: tell your sales people you are open to being convinced, challenge your sales people to demonstrate for each tradeshow (1) how many leads that ultimately purchased were generated, (2) how they use the tradeshow attendance in their later sales efforts and (3) what the company would lose by cutting spending on this trade show by half.

My prediction? you will end up with a lot fewer trade shows, on which you might even increase spending to obtain better results. Overall tradeshow spending is down, sales success is up, both you and your sales people are happier, and your company makes more data driven decisions”

Do you agree? Do you have something to add or correct? Looking forward to your response.


Koen Pauwels

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