A Year Without Trade Shows — Trouble or Progress?

OK — admit it, trade shows can be fun, allowing staff to travel to a distant city, connect — and reconnect — with peers, and dine out on the company. You are learning too — about competitors, about your customers and about trends — and some people even thrive on the deadlines and drama that the shows produce.

For decades, trade shows have been the primary medium for buyers and brands to meet each other. They act as a platform to elevate brand awareness, and a forum to connect with industry tastemakers. Each year numerous small suppliers and brands, particularly those in interior design and home furnishings travel, from afar with the hope that they will be discovered. 

At Nomadory, we decided to evaluate the trade show economics to determine if, in fact, trade shows are ‘worth it’.* Consider a trade show with 5,000 attendees.

The cost of attending the event is estimated at $35,000. This includes $20,000 for booth space, shipping, travel costs, entertainment, signage, transportation, and warehouse space, and $15,000 in staffing to set up the show, man the booth, following up on leads, and then closing the business after the show. A company with a 20×10 space in a prime location might expect to identify potential 100 leads a day. The follow-up from these leads then require time and energy to qualify the leads. Let’s assume that this may lead to 50 sales, or 1% of all attendees at the show. Therefore, at a total cost of $35,000, the total cost per lead of $116. Therefore, if your team attends 10 shows a year, your annual trade show budget is $350,000.

In other words, low conversion rates, huge costs indicate that trade shows are fundamentally broken