Do trade shows really work in the 21st century?

Trade Show

There was a time when trade shows were a regular fixture on the calendars of businesses operating in all sectors of industry. They represented a wonderful opportunity to press the flesh with like-minded individuals, potential customers and passing acquaintances alike, and as a general rule of thumb they were seen as very good for the business, whether you were selling French fries, French windows, French bulldogs or anything else.

If you don’t already work in the ball bearing industry, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting excited about the annual Ball Bearing, Roller Bearing and Radial Flange Manufacturers’ Association Expo, but every year at Skegness Civic Centre a dedicated throng of interested parties would gather to talk all things bearings. This isn’t really true, of course, I just made it up as a rhetorical example for illustrative purposes, but you get the picture. You’re smart. You’re on the ball… bearing.

Then, just as the excitement about trade shows reached fever pitch, just when delegates and exhibitors were in a frenzy about the exhilaration that comes from talking about ball bearings, the pandemic came along and sent us all back to our homes. The exhibition sector, a once-thriving entity that generated billions of pounds ever year, all but ground to a halt. If you wanted to talk about various types of bearings – think angular contact, deep groove, axial, flanged and the rest of these little beauties, you had to use Zoom instead.

Real Madrid and Burgess Hill Town. In the same sentence.

Trade shows that were held on Zoom or other video conferencing platforms have been rare, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a little like playing as a central striker for Real Madrid all through your career, before signing up to one last season playing for Burgess Hill Town in the Isthmian League South East Division. The ability to meet with and speak to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of possible customers was taken away with hardly any notice at all.

Now in mid-2022, it appears that Covid-19 is not quite disappearing altogether but certainly in retreat, so it’s no surprise to see trade shows and industry exhibitions back on the calendar again. This is great news for anyone who works for companies that arrange the events and for venue owners, of course, but is it good news for those who do the exhibiting? In short, is there still a relevance to these shows, in terms of revenue generated?

Well, while there are a few minus points, they are easily outweighed by the plus points. Exhibitions and trade shows still represent the opportunity to network on a gargantuan style, certainly in comparison to any Zoom meeting you’ve ever had. And face-to-face meetings are infinitely more preferable to emails, phone calls and text messaging, so if you’re planning a product launch, for example, one of the best ways to do so remains an industry event in the Skegness Civic Centre. Or the NEC in Birmingham. Or Earls Court in London. Or anywhere else.

All hail the trade show!


Rose Media Group, founded by Aneela Rose, is a specialist B2B PR agency working across a range of industry sectors. And we quite like Burgess Hill Town as well.

David Showell

David Showell

David Showell is Chief Copywriter for Rose Media Group, creating content for clients across a range of industry sectors.

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