Trade Shows, Conferences, and Exhibitions Information
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Trade shows, conferences, and exhibitions are public gatherings used to present and discuss information about a specific field or the products and services of a particular industry segment. These gatherings serve to be educational, allow competitors and rivals to interact, and announce new products.
- Trade shows are typically conducted in large meeting halls so that large number of companies can provide displays, allowing visitors to connect with many businesses at one time.
- Conferences are usually organized and sponsored by trade associations or industry publications in order to present and discuss ideas, technologies, and other topics.
- Exhibitions feature product demonstrations to debut new products and technologies.
Trade shows, conferences, and exhibitions usually focus on one industry or profession, for example:
- Electronics Design Show
- Plant & Facilities Engineering
Attendees are the visitors to the show; exhibitors run the booths and lead the other events at the show. Both may be customers of the group that organized the event.
Image Credit: Expo Logic
Some events are open to the public while others are categorized as trade-only. Engineering trade shows, conferences and exhibitions promote interdisciplinary collaboration by bringing together professionals from a variety of fields. Specialty engineering conferences may bring together groups of professionals that would otherwise not communicate with each other or collaborate on typical projects. For example, new advances in biology and nanotechnology have resulted in the collaboration between these two disciplines and given rise to an entirely new field of engineering, biotechnology.
An engineering trade show or conference can be sponsored by an industry association or professional society such as IEEE or an organization like IHS GlobalSpec. A trade show can be a gathering of people at a certain place and time, it may be accessed digitally, or it may be a combination of both methods of access.
The group organizing the event is responsible for several activities:
Planning and scheduling to set a date and book the venue:
- Space rental
- Electrical, telecommunications, and networking set-ups
- Booth construction
- Travel and accommodations
- Promotional literature and giveaway items
- Material handling
- Finding speakers and exhibitors to run panels, seminars, and conferences.
- Marketing the event by direct mail, email, or other digital formats to both exhibitors and attendees.
- Filling the allotted booth space with exhibitors.
- Creating event collateral including programs, schedules, and other materials.
- Response-tracking technology to understand who has been marketed to, who is attending, and who has no interest in the event.
Some organizations provide trade show support services such as display design and construction, promotional product creation, and logistics.
Characteristics of Trade Shows, Conferences, and Exhibitions
Trade shows, conferences, and exhibitions have functional similarities:
- Events are conducted in large meeting halls so that a large number of companies can provide displays, allowing visitors to connect with many businesses at one time.
- Often used to announce or promote new products.
- Organized and sponsored by trade associations or industry publications in order to present and discuss ideas, technologies, and other topics.
- Showcase new technologies, practices, or products.
- Professionals can make new contacts, network, and establish professional relationships.
Each type of event has some unique features. Events may also be some combination of a trade show, conference, and exhibition.
- Companies and organizations have booths to market and display their products and services with attendants to answer questions and make connections.
- Promotional products may be distributed to reinforce an understanding of the company after the show.
- Classes, workshops, seminars, and lectures are offered for educational purposes.
- Industry leaders speak about relevant topics.
- Product demonstrations to promote the latest technology that will enhance competition in the marketplace.
Image Credit: Impact Lab
Physical vs. Virtual Events
As computing and networking technologies advance, an increasing number of events are available online for off-site attendees. Some events are held entirely online.
Physical trade shows are typically scheduled a year or more in advance and can range from a handful of attendees and exhibitors to thousands. Shows may be located at hotels, conference centers, or dedicated event spaces such as the Hanover fairground.
Virtual events can be accessed online. They might be live or archived versions of physical trade shows or events that are held entirely online. Virtual events are becoming increasingly popular because they reduce travel and living expenses.
There are some features that are unique to digital events:
- A platform to run the show and allow attendees and exhibitors to interact and obtain information.
- Webcasting delivers audio, video, and presentations to off-site attendees.
- Support to troubleshoot problems and assist attendees and exhibitors with accessing the event.
Some services available to exhibitors at digital events include:
- Creation of presentations for panels.
- Marketing materials such as banner ads and documentation that may be downloaded by attendees.
Trade shows, conferences and exhibitions also offer students an opportunity to get involved with corporations and organizations working in their fields of interest. They may also focus on global issues, research practices, or legislative policies that affect how engineering firms and companies do business.