It used to be that las vegas trade shows were mostly an affair that was reserved for professionals within the industry that was featured, but increasingly more trade shows are opening themselves up to some degree of public participation. It is likely that this trend is occurring in an effort to help offset some of the costs of exhibiting at a trade show, by maximizing direct-to-consumer marketing opportunities. It is definitely a bit of a shift from the old days when a trade show was something of a club for industry insiders to hobnob with each other.
Take the Interbike Bicycle Show for example. It just wrapped at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Sales numbers for many bicycle retailers have been less than impressive as of recent, so they decided to go a different route with this year’s show. They decided to open up the floor to consumers and let them browse exhibit booths to demo new products and shop.
Many trade shows have actually been opening themselves up to consumers to attract more shoppers to each trade show display and some shows have even moved to a model where this isn’t just an additional effort to make some sales and offset the costs of exhibit booths, it is the primary goal of the trade show.
The Interbike Bicycle Show decided to take a kind of middle-of-the-road tactic and keep the show primarily for industry insiders, but open up their trade show display floor to the public on the last day. They did this in an innovative way. Instead of just opening up the show floor to anybody off of the street, they asked retailers to bring their best customers. This allowed retailers to cultivate a special status with their best customers, effectively giving them a VIP treatment and access to some of the newest bicycle technology at various exhibit booths during the show.
It looks like this trend towards more trade shows opening up the public will likely continue, although it is certainly important to remember that the benefits of exhibiting and attending a trade show are far wider than just marketing to consumers or selling a few extra products. Although these are great goals, they remain only one part of a successful trade show presence.