Trade Show Statistics: Attendance, Marketing, and COVID-19 in 2022

Businesses have been using trade shows as their marketing strategy for years. Before the digital era, trade shows mostly generated leads and increased sales. Nowadays, their function has changed—these events can expand their audience, increase brand exposure, meet and greet customers, examine the market thoroughly, and analyze the competition.

Considering the digital world we live in, can we still say that trade shows are an effective marketing strategy? Are trade shows a possibility for people in the same industry to mingle and see what’s new?

Let’s dive into some of the most captivating trade show statistics and find out.

General Trade Show Statistics

If you are looking to generate new leads, trade show marketing is a fantastic way to do so. Let’s take a look at the most relevant statistics and facts to scratch the surface of this marketing strategy.

1. The trade show planning industry in the US is estimated to hit $18.2 billion in 2022.

Trade shows and conferences are the most popular meeting activities all over the world, including the US.

Before the pandemic, trade shows reached an all-time high of over $19 billion in market size. However, the trade show market size has been severely wounded by the COVID-19, dropping at nearly $11.5 billion in 2020. In recent years, the trade show industry has been gradually recovering the pre-pandemic numbers.

2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trade shows fell by 63.8% in 2020.

In April 2020, about 750 festivals, including Glastonbury Festival and Coachella, had been postponed or canceled because of the global pandemic. Unfortunately, trade shows encountered the same fate, forcing many marketers to employ digital tools.

In terms of revenue, event marketing statistics prove that live music, cinema, and trade shows have suffered the most. The figures will undoubtedly improve over the years, but they will not regain their pre-pandemic status before 2024.

3. Over 90% of those who visit trade exhibitions say they are looking for new goods and services.

As almost everyone is looking for a product or service at a trade show, companies should take the chance to promote brand awareness, connect with new customers, and give their potential audience a better understanding of their products and services. These are only some of the main benefits of exhibiting at trade shows.

If attendees are satisfied with the experience, they will most likely share it with at least six other people, creating an excellent opportunity for powerful word-of-mouth marketing.

4. In the US, there are 7,426 trade show and conference planning businesses.

During the 2017–2022 decade, trade show and conference planning businesses have increased by an average of 8.2% per year. As trade show companies are constantly growing, it’s clear that these figures won’t slow down any time soon.

Trade Show Attendance Statistics

Not only do the following numbers demonstrate how many people participate in events, but also their preferences and satisfaction rates. Let’s take a look at the most relevant statistics and facts.

5. In 2021, US businesses participated in 6.4 national events.

A survey conducted by Statista reveals that, in 2021, American businesses took part in 4.4 regional shows, 6.4 national events, and 4.4 international events.

Compared to the previous year, these figures have slightly increased. These trade show attendance trends suggest how this industry will gradually go back to normal, thanks to the introduction of vaccines.

6. 55% of respondents will solely attend virtual events.

COVID-19 vaccines are slowly giving hope to marketers to host in-person events and trade shows again. However, many marketers are still uncertain whether it is a better idea to attend in-person or online events.

In the first quarter of 2022, 83% of marketers are extremely or moderately likely to plan to attend in-person events and trade shows. Yet, event marketers and trade show attendees feel that providing virtual or hybrid events is the best choice.

7. The average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing exhibitions.

When preparing for an exhibition, trade show marketers should take into consideration how to impress their potential customers with a unique booth that reflects their brand identity.

During the whole exhibition, businesses get many opportunities to connect with consumers. People tend to spend, on average, more than eight hours looking for new products and services at a trade show. These convention attendance statistics emphasize the importance of displaying goods that capture people’s attention.

8. 97% of marketers expect to see an increase in hybrid events.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many marketers were forced to host their trade shows on virtual platforms. With 93% of global trade show planners investing in virtual strategies in 2022, this trend will most likely continue in the future.

The same statistics prove that almost everyone will expect hybrid trade shows, a combination of in-person and online events, for the upcoming years. So, trade show trends demonstrate that business leaders must provide an impressive setup of booths and create engaging interactions for both physical and virtual events. 

Balancing both experiences will certainly generate considerable challenges for event marketers. Communication, flexibility, and costs are some of the most pressing issues that will either determine the success or failure of hybrid trade shows.

Trade Show Marketing Statistics

Obviously, the trade show industry is not going to disappear any soon. But are businesses suffering financial losses from it?

Let’s see what the numbers say.

9. 31% of marketers agree that events are the single most effective marketing strategy.

Events such as trade shows, conventions, and conferences are crucial to providing attendees with a valuable in-person or virtual experience.

Especially trade shows are all about making connections and raising brand awareness simultaneously. Therefore, trade shows generate plenty of new opportunities for event marketers. Moreover, this trade show research shows how lead generation and face-to-face customer meetings also represent a big part of this marketing strategy.

10. The B2B trade show market value will reach 40 billion by 2023.

Globally, the B2B trade show market had a value of $34.4 billion in 2018. It can be seen that the global market size has increased over the past years. This figure is expected to rise even more by 2023.

Keep in mind that around 46% of the global B2B trade shows the market is assigned to the US. According to the most recent trade show stats, it’s no secret the country holds the highest number of trade shows worldwide.

11. Over 75% of B2C marketers use email marketing to promote their events.

In our digital world, many marketers still use the traditional email as the number one marketing tool for promoting trade shows. Surprisingly, the number of B2C marketers that use email marketing as their primary tool accounts for more than seven in ten. However, 50% of them struggle with finding prospects that reply to their emails.

Trade Show Growth/Revenue Statistics

What is the average ROI and revenue coming from this industry? How much do marketers allocate for event planning and organization?

Let’s find out.

12. Generally, a successful trade show has a return on investment of 5:1.

When determining the ROI of a trade show, marketers should consider the costs revolving around the booth, shipping, travel, and accommodation. Besides, this calculation also depends on the average lifetime value of a customer, the number of new customers, and the overall gross margin percentage.

That considered, the average ROI for trade shows is considered to be at least 500%. Ideally, the most successful marketing activities see $10 for each $1 spent, which equals a return on investment of 1,000%. If your trade shows generate an ROI lower than 100%, marketers should consider improving their marketing strategy.

13. In 2021, only 9% of marketers increased their trade show budget. 

According to a survey by Statista, 51% of marketers, representing the majority of respondents, planned to decrease their trade show budget due to the pandemic. Trade show industry statistics for 2021 demonstrate that 31% of respondents planned to maintain their budget, while only the remaining 8% did not provide any information about their decision.

trade show budget 2021

14. 74% of attendees admit that engaging with branded event marketing experiences convinced them to purchase a product.

Nowadays, many B2B marketers started adopting experiential marketing to create meaningful relationships with potential customers. As a result, clients can easily engage with a brand identity. On the other hand, small companies find experiential marketing as a great opportunity for generating leads and boosting sales.

This statistic emphasizes the effectiveness of trade shows—promoting a product at an event will influence most people’s purchasing decisions. Only a few people are less likely to buy the product after seeing it at a trade show.

Additional Trade Show Industry Statistics

After getting a good grasp of statistics and data about trade show attendance, marketing, growth, and revenue, here’s a list of interesting facts about this marketing strategy.

15. Around 59% of marketers said that salespeople make the best booth staffers. 

People may assume that executives and senior management are the best choices for your booth. Yet, statistics prove this theory wrong—salespeople are the best booth staffers, according to management and attendees. The most recent trade show statistics show that only 29% of marketers voted for senior management.

16. Only 6% of trade show competitors believe that they convert trade show leads well.

It doesn’t matter why you exhibit your products at a trade show—it will probably end up in sales. Nowadays, most marketers gather leads, but only a small number agree that they convert them well. In this case, a thorough follow-up plan will help you during all trade show stages and put you ahead of the competition.

More than 4 out of 5 people that enter a trade show are most likely to purchase a product or service from exhibitors. For this reason, it’s crucial to have an appealing booth and engage with potential customers.

18. Consumer Electronics Show (CES) hosts a total size of 180,000 attendees.

Every year in Las Vegas, exhibitors present computer products, flashy gadgets, and drones. As one of the largest trade shows in the world, the Consumer Electronics Show invites many entrepreneurs to find new ideas through manufacturing solutions and innovative products, which makes this event extremely influential.

19. The CONEXPO-CON/AGG was attended by 125,000 visitors.

Like the Consumer Electronic Show, Magic, and other famous names in the trade show industry, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG is located in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Convention Center hosts more than 100,000 attendees, making the CONEXPO-CON/AGG event one of the largest trade shows in the US, right behind the Consumer Electronics Show.

Located in San Francisco, the RSA Conference comes in third place. This event brings together attendees from all sorts of industries, including government, law, technology, and much more. On top of that, the RSA Conference guarantees a week of intense learning and networking.

Trade Show Statistics: The Takeaway

After analyzing these stats, it’s understandable that trade shows are not as popular as in the past. In the past couple of decades, new marketing strategies have grown in popularity since digital marketing—questioning trade shows’ worth.

However, trade shows are still a valuable and relevant marketing tool as they create less expensive leads, brand awareness, and many other opportunities for marketers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who attends trade shows?

If you’re a business looking to target the highest number of visitors, you must know there are many types of attendees that might stop by your trade show. Here are some of them.
For instance, a compulsive shopper is not worried about their credit card, but that doesn’t mean they will purchase everything they see. Make sure to meet their expectations and offer a valuable product or service. On the other hand, the freeloader might only be around to try out some products and gather some free samples.
The social butterfly is a friendly individual that will most likely stop to visit your booth and interact with your brand. Consider distributing business cards and strike up a conversation with them.

How much do trade shows cost?

Trade shows are an investment, but how much do they cost? A trade show includes many costs, such as the exhibition’s expense and the fee to rent the booth space. Just a reminder that the larger the space for your show, the higher your costs will be.
On average, the area will cost between $100 and $150 per square foot. For example, a 10×10 booth area will cost approximately $14,000, with a total budget of $42,000.

How effective are trade shows?

With the adoption of more digital channels such as social media and SEO marketing, most marketers generally overlook trade shows. However, you should pay careful attention to the hidden power of trade shows. 
This type of marketing can be highly effective when displaying innovative products or services at an event. Some benefits of participating in trade shows involve communicating face-to-face with the audience, lead generation, and brand awareness. What’s more, marketers can observe up close what the competition is offering. 

Is it worth exhibiting at trade shows?

Exhibiting at trade shows is definitely worth the time and effort—it’s a more effective way to demonstrate that your company is serious, stable, and large enough to participate in leading events and conferences.
But that’s not all. Trade shows have the power of showing credibility and visibility, generating business leads, learning which approaches and strategies work, helping you develop your brand, and closely analyzing the competition.

How many trade shows are in the US each year?

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reports that about 13,000 trade shows occur in the US annually, accounting for 40% of all trade shows globally. In fact, the number of international trade shows amounts to over 20,000 trade shows. 
These events include many industries—construction, apparel, accessories, manufacturing, technology, home decor, sports products, entertainment, and transportation are some of the most popular trade show topics.

How big is the trade show industry?

The trade show industry is not going to die out anytime soon—rather the opposite. However, the massive impact of the coronavirus has struck the worldwide economy, including the trade show industry causing a considerable decline. In the US, the trade show industry was worth $15.58 billion in 2019.
Because of the global pandemic in 2020, the figure decreased to $5.56 billion. The trade show industry is still significant—trade show statistics suggest that these numbers are expected to rise to $14.5 billion in 2024.


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