How to tell if the Trade Show is dead?

How to know if your trade show is dead and time to move onto another.

Blurred image of inside trade show event

Not all trade shows perform the same and it is important to evaluate whether the ones you have participated in are still yielding the returns you are expecting. Trade shows aren’t cheap, and the costs can vary between different events, so you’d want to make sure you are allocating your investments wisely. We will be running through some scenarios that shows indication of a trade show possibly not doing its best to maximise return for its exhibitors, this way you would be in a better position to analyse each key aspect and make an informed decision whether you should continue exhibiting at those events and not make the same mistakes we commonly see.

1. Wrong Audience

Exhibiting at a trade show which brings in the wrong audience can be a waste of your investment, one of the main advantages of exhibiting is bringing in qualified leads all in one place. The right audience can equate to spending weeks or months cold emailing/calling/ads and only to gain one lead. So, it will be worthwhile to take some time to analyse how your event performed and find out what is the ratio of foot traffic that attended the expo suits your business vs non-qualified visitors. This way, if the results come back less than ideal you can reinvest your costs into better performing trade shows. 


Sometimes it is not about the number of events you exhibit, it’s about the quality of the event and its relevance to your business. Therefore you can consider increasing your budget for that event so you can upgrade to a more engaging custom exhibition stand rather than settling for a modular booth to factor in the attendance to another mediocre event (dead trade show).

2. Decreasing Number of Buyers

A decreased number of buyers is the same as a decreased number of qualified attendance and having a qualified attendance is one thing, but if those numbers start to decrease every year, then it is not a good sign. There could be a variety of reasons for this, perhaps the organisers are not improving their marketing strategy each year (reusing old material that may make the event less appealing for the right audience to attend). Or perhaps there is nothing new that gives people an incentive to attended etc.

3. Low Engagement Levels

Your customers need to have a certain level of interaction with the overall event in order to get excited and with the intention to make a purchase or investment in your business. Their lack of engagement could be due to a boring experience which offers no inspiration and less reason to approach booths to find out more about them. It could also be false advertisement, perhaps the attendee was exciting something completely different but instead resulted in a weak execution and this overall can affect the mood of your potential clients. Sometimes even if you do everything right, your customers journey to your booth could affect their motivation and thought process, thus it can reduce your conversion rate.    

4. Dropping ROI

Exhibiting at the wrong trade show can dramatically affect your return on investment (ROI). This could mean the audience that is attending the event is not related to what you are selling which directly reduces your ROI and could mean you spent all this money on a particular event, but with no one to purchase or make investments in your business – hence no returns. If this is happening to you, consider dropping that event and use those additional funds to improve your booth and event marketing materials at shows that convert for you.

5. Quickly Rising Space Costs

There could be many reasons why your trade show booth space costs are increased every year, which can be understandable to cover for inflation etc but check how much and how quickly those prices are rising. If there is no particular reason for such a spike in costs there must be something wrong and the organisers could just be taking advantage of the situation and squeezing as much out of exhibitors as possible, which is not a great position to be in and is a sign of a dead trade show in the making.

6. Poor Incentives for New Exhibitors

Trade shows only grow with new exhibitors, it keeps the playing field exciting and is a great incentive for customers to return year after year as there will always be a new player in the game. If it is always the same companies who exhibit, it becomes stagnant and will make it boring as customers will just see the same exhibitors each time and this may actually deter them from attending again the next year. People attend exhibitions through excitement of seeing what is new, so if the show organisers are not creating incentives for new exhibitors, they are not really doing the existing exhibitors any justice.

7. Aging of Exhibitors and Visitors

As an exhibitor you would want to be able to reach a large audience because that is how you can grow, but if it is the same exhibitors and visitors that go to the same event every year then it will just become a task rather than something that makes you excited and wanting to be there. The more exhibitors and visitors you can reach then the bigger the event will grow and attract more each year, if this is not happening then its a sign of dead trade show.

8. Little Pre-Show Promotion

As an exhibitor you would want to be able to reach a large audience because that is how you can grow, but if it is the same exhibitors and visitors that go to the same event every year then it will just become a task rather than something that makes you excited and wanting to be there. The more exhibitors and visitors you can reach then the bigger the event will grow and attract more each year.

9. Absence of Social Media Coverage

For any event to gain hype and excitement, it is critical to have a strong social media presence because that is covers a large portion of the media who may ignore other forms of traditional media. It will generally include the younger audience who essentially will help determine the future and success of the event as they would have their own following and if they choose to visitor or even exhibit, they could be bringing in crowds which the organisers may not have access to.

10. Unaddressed Industry Changes

Adaptation is something that can make or break events, if the organisers are stuck using traditional methods and considering feedback which is given by visitors and exhibitors, it could be a strong sign that nothing will ever change and will ultimately affect the success of the trade show. People raise their concerns for a reason because something needs to change and if nothing gets done about it, it could mean they don’t have the vision to grow the event and for the exhibitor, there is little incentive to continue investing in that event.    

11. Primary Focus on Visitors

Focussing on visitors is great because it helps maximise the number of attendees to the event and that makes sense because without high numbers of attendees, there is very little reason for exhibitors to exhibit. It should not be so heavily unbalanced because if exhibitors do not equally get the same treatment, it will give exhibitors a bad experience and will make it difficult to for them to decided if they should return the next year or not. Since exhibitors are paying so much for the space and investing in the event, it only makes sense to ensure they are happy so they will choose to re exhibit continually.


If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, then your trade show is most likely dead so consider dropping those events as they could be the reasons why your exhibit is not performing as effectively as you’d hope. If you are unsure where to start with selecting the right trade show event, we have list of top B2B trade shows you can have a look at as a start. To maximise your participation at an event, you’d want to make sure your business is represented as professionally and effectively as possible, and you can do with us a customised exhibition booth with UCON Exhibitions. So even if the attendance rate is low, you will still capture the attention and steal the crowd away from your competitors. Time to get started!

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