Tradeshows (also often referred to as expos) are really very concentrated B2B industry events attended mostly by vendors and those who would most likely use their services. These events are usually only open to qualified and licensed individuals, making it a very niche target. They’re big business, but they’re not always the right fit for every business. For others, a better match would be either a conference or a seminar.
Conferences almost always revolve around an idea. Most conferences select one theme and then break the event up into seminars and workshops. Attendees will gather in one main room but often “break out” into smaller groups. The goal of any conference is to be an idea generator and networker. While presenters are seen as experts, there’s often a very open attitude that welcomes information sharing and creates a space for new ideas. Marketing in this environment usually involves jumping through a few hoops. First you have to establish your authority in a field. Once that is achieved, you can reach out to the event organizers and ask to get involved. The simplest way is by hosting a seminar, which allows you to be on the program and gain access to a private audience for a presentation on your business or expertise.
How you market your space at a conference won’t be that different from how conference planners market the conference itself. First, don’t rely on the through-the-door traffic. Take the initiative to reach out to your contact database by extending invitations, email and social media blasts, and creating an event page. From there, your job is to compete for visitor attention. Size up other speakers, vendors and attendees. Distinguish yourself from them by asking what they’re missing and what you offer that they don’t already. Then the next step is to make sure your presence has a brand impact. Do you have top notch materials? Have you set up a social outreach effort to make it easier for people to connect with you? And last but not least, is there an opportunity to sponsor any part of the conference? It’s strongly recommended that you first visit any desired event before signing up to be at one. This gives you an opportunity to “walk-through” as a participant while sizing up the event from a business and marketing perspective.
Do the same for a seminar, but tweak it for increased interaction. Make sure you’re engaging the audience, use visuals, and offer handouts (and marketing kits). If possible, carve time for a mini brainstorm session and a Q&A. It’s also advisable to take a moment to connect socially and offer incentive to reconnect digitally – even if for more freebies or to offer further commentary. While seminars are usually woven into lengthier conferences, it’s not unusual to see seminars as independent events. The goal with any seminar is to have the audience leave feeling like they were a part of the process.
Which Is Best for Your Business?
These are just a sampling of the type of event environments any business can market in. You can also look into symposiums, summits and workshops. When deciding which route to go, first consider your business type, then your goals. The rule of thumb is that tradeshows are more product based, while also venturing into service. Symposiums, summits and workshops usually center around ideas and content. Conferences bridge the gap between the two by often catering to a variety of business mediums, including products, services, content and ideas.
Once you’ve made your decision, take a moment to browse through some directories of scheduled tradeshows, conferences and seminars for the upcoming year. For more targeted results, run a Google search for your region and industry. It’s likely too late to commit to one for this year unless it’s a smaller venue; even still, don’t underestimate the amount of prep work that will go into each. If you’re pressed for participating in one or two before the year’s out, there’s a good chance you can take part in a web or teleconference. They’re just as effective, more efficient, more wide-reaching and require no additional expense other than time.