Opinion: Trade shows, do we really need them?

Despite what you think of them, trade shows are clearly here to stay and are proliferating every year but just what are the pros and cons?

Should you be looking at increasing your presence at trade shows?

Well, the first question to look at is whether they really actually benefit anyone except for the obvious; organisers and venue owners?

This of course depends on what the exhibitors and visitors are looking to get out of the event.

We have been exhibiting at UK and European trade shows for around 4 years now and each year with each one we learn a bit more about how we can improve what we get out of them. So much so, we are actually planning to expand our exhibition schedule to include the US CEDIA show within the next couple of years.

From an exhibitor’s perspective, a huge amount of planning, time and money goes into each trade show. As a small business, our two key members of staff: myself and my business partner, have to be in attendance at each event. This means a disruption in service for our clients as we have to effectively close our doors while we attend these events. (Thankfully, we have very understanding clients!) But this does tend to be the case across the industry – for example, when ISE is taking place in Amsterdam, our industry pretty much grinds to a halt, while everyone focuses their attention on the event.

However the plus points do outweigh the downsides. The exposure for our brand and what we do are huge positives for us. Then there are all the potential new clients to meet, as well as catching up with a lot of our existing clients. Finally, there are the useful networking opportunities presented by gathering a large group of industry peers together.

From a visitor’s perspective, the main thing to lose is their time and it can be tough to balance this against our increasingly demanding daily schedules. But by not attending visitors risk falling behind by not keeping up to date with the latest movers and shakers in our industry, not to mention missing out on the latest news, technology and product releases.

“Our latest client stumbled across our stand at a show and liked us so much he signed up with us the very next week.”

Trade shows can offer visitors some surprises too. Take for example our latest client who stumbled across our stand at a show and liked and understood what we offer so much he signed up with us the very next week.

There are also educational opportunities on offer which can be very beneficial all round. Generally educators gather good audiences at trade shows which means their message is getting exposure. The students generally get good value as they can attend multiple sessions accessing diverse topics in a relatively short space of time and get discounts when compared to the more traditional ‘day out’ training courses.

To give some insight into what goes into a trade show we have already started planning what we will expose at next year’s ISE and are about to start looking at organising our trip. Thankfully, we are with a group of mainly US exhibitors who employ a stand builder to design, plan, build and deliver the stand, so that part is taken care of for us. All we have to do is plan what we will showcase and turn up! It's a very different story for the UK show we attend, where we do everything ourselves.

Then there are the costs involved, our stand at ISE is 17m x 14m and the cost for the floor space alone is almost €50,000. Compare this with the UK show we attend, the stand we have is much smaller 3m x 3m, but the cost with shell scheme is around £1,200 (that's about €36,000 euro for an equivalent square meterage with shell scheme as just our floor space at ISE). Then there are the costs of getting to and from the event, plus accommodation, food, drink, etc. As you can see from an exhibitors perspective it’s an expensive, albeit rewarding business.

All in all trade shows are indeed beneficial to all involved and are a great way to keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry – miss them at your peril!


Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then Keith worked in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which has recently morphed into a Ltd. company called designflow with his business partner Kelly Ashforth. Designflow aims at increasing awareness of design in AV and help installers win jobs and create proper documentation for them