What’s in a name? The Difference Between a Trade Show, Convention and Expo

There are many names and definitions for large gatherings of business professionals in a hotel ballroom. Is it a trade show? A convention or expo? These words get thrown around interchangeably with each other without much reference to what they actually mean. And they are each worlds apart. If you’re new the trade show, convention and expo industries, this is a blog post worth bookmarking.

imex-show floorPhoto courtesy of IMEX

What is a Trade Show?

By definition, a trade show is an exhibition at which business in a particular industry promote their products or services. These are generally not open to the public and can only be attended by company representatives and members of the press.

What’s so great about a trade show?

  • Trade shows are an excellent way to engage new customers to help your business grow. Most show attendees are decision-makers or buying influencers for their companies. It’s like selling to the source.
  • It costs less to make a sale with a trade show contact than it does to make a sale to a non-trade show contact. In fact, it costs nearly double to sell to non-trade show contacts. These are decision-makers actively looking to purchase as opposed to contacts you’ve cold-called or aren’t sure what or if they’re ready to buy.
  • Trade shows are popular and it is easy to find one that fits your industry and company’s needs. If you can think it, there’s probably a trade show for it. Seriously. Give Google a try and search “[your industry] + trade show” to see what pops up.

Trade show heavy hitters:

  • IMEX America Trade Show: Hailed as “the pulse of the meeting industry”, this annual trade show gathers the best of the best in the meetings and events industry. More than 12,000 professionals (including exhibiting companies, hosted buyers and attendees) attended IMEX 2017 trade show to talk business, share ideas and make connections.
  • OutDoor Show: This gathering of outdoor pros is the world’s leading trade show for all things outdoor. From maker to retailer, anyone and everyone involved in the outdoor world attends this show to catch up on the latest trends and news in the community.
  • ASD Market Week: As the most comprehensive B2B trade show for retail, distribution and importing businesses. 45,000 buyers from all over the world attend this show every year, 98% of which have major purchasing power. The show floor is filled with more than 2,700 exhibitors offering wholesale retail choices for every price point.

pax-convention-floorPhoto courtesy of PAX

What is a Convention?

A convention is a gathering of individuals in a particular place at a particular time to discuss or engage in a common interest.  Dialogue and conversation are the end game. While there may be speakers at a convention, the real goal is to get one-to-one face time between people who have a common personal interest.

What’s so great about a convention?

  • Network with people who have the same personal interests as you in an informal, light-hearted atmosphere.
  • Learn new techniques or best practices from your peers. Rather than sitting and listening to one persona talking to many, a convention is a space for you to talk about you and your interests with those who have similar interests.
  • Depending on the type of convention you attend, you could earn new perspective clients.

Convention heavy hitters:

  • Comic-Con International: Obviously. Comic-Con is one of the best-known conventions in the comic world. It’s a nonprofit educational corporation that is dedicated to creating awareness and appreciation of comics and their contribution to art and culture. Attendance has topped 130,000 in recent years and has maxed out the capabilities of the San Diego Convention Center, spawning satellite locations throughout San Diego to accommodate the influx of people.
  • PAX: This series of conventions is all about gaming and game culture. With meet ups across American and Australia, PAX embraces cutting edge technology, free play and celebrating diversity in the gaming world. Attendance runs the gamut from developer to recreational player.
  • Comiket: Short for “Comic Market”, Comiket attendees have surpassed 590,000. This convention, held in Tokyo, Japan, boasts the largest collection of self-published manga and other exceptionally rare and valuable items. Attendees have been known to line up days before the convention starts to ensure they have first dibs on the goods.

b2b-registration.jpgPhoto courtesy of EXHIB-IT!

What is an Expo?

An expo is a large-scale exhibition or trade show often conducted on an international level. Think of an expo as a hybrid of a trade show and conference that is mainly focused on exhibitors, but has been sprinkled with a few sessions or seminars put on by the show organizers that pertain to the topic of the expo.

What’s so great about an expo?

  • Expos are a great way to meet people. Network with business-owners and decision makers.
  • Attend topical seminars or roundtables to learn how you can become better in your field.
  • Expos combine the professional development of a conference with the social (read: fun) aspect of a convention.

Expo heavy hitters:

  • Expo 2017 Astana: The most recent international expo, Expo 2017 Astana harkened back to the days of the World’s Fair. It took place in Astana, Kazakhstan and the theme was “Future Energy”, which aimed to create a global debate between countries, nongovernmental organizations, companies and the general public.
  • IFT18: With the goal of showcasing the new products, latest trends and cutting-edge innovations in the food industry, IFT18 combines the largest collection of food ingredient, equipment, processing, technology and packaging supplies.
  • B2B Expo NM: We couldn’t talk about expos with mention our favorite one. This is the largest B2B networking event in New Mexico. Enjoy educational roundtable discussions with prominent New Mexico business leaders, network with hundreds of local vendors and make connections with professionals throughout the state.

Now you’re versed in the difference between all of the different types of shows you can attend. Some are bigger than other, some are geekier than others, some are massive and others are intimate. All are worth attending for your personal and professional development. If you have any other questions about trade shows, conventions or expos, our experienced team is available to guide you through your next show.

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