Targeted Trade ShowsWith the economy spiraling downwards and every budget including the trade show budget shrinking, it is more important than ever to find the right, targeted shows to exhibit at. There are many options to find trade shows and today we will discuss the best ways to find the shows that will improve your ROI. I realize I keep harping on this point in almost every column I write, but there is really nothing more important. Be sure to fully understand who your key prospects are and what their needs are. Spend any time you need to really, and I mean really, nail this. The more detail, the better. In the end, this preparation will save you considerable time during your search for a show that fits your needs!

Start your trade show search by first determining what the purpose of your exhibiting is; what you are trying to achieve. Make sure you have well considered answers to the following questions:

  • Which initial goal or goals are most important to you? Examples are: New business (leads), maintaining business relationships, creating industry exposure, meeting media contacts, etc.
  • What key industries should you exhibit in?
  • What show types should you exhibit in?
  • Who are the key prospects in each industry?
  • Which shows are your competitors exhibiting at?

Once you answer these questions, you are ready to start searching for the most targeted shows that will deliver the best results. Here are a couple of search options I use when researching shows for my clients:

Trade Show Search Engines

The various trade show search engine sites are the trade show equivalent to traditional search engine sites such as Google. Each site will vary in the search options offered, but most provide you with the ability to define specific details such as industry, month, city, state, country, or give you the ability to search for information on a specific show. Here are a few examples of popular trade show search engine sites.

Traditional Search Engines

Since all trade show search engines rely on show producers adding their shows or staff researching specific show opportunities, you will find that results and information vary considerably depending on the site and of course none of those sites will cover all shows that are produced.

Standard search engines, such as Google, Live and Yahoo! are good tools to supplement your show search efforts. Enter “Trade Show” and keywords for the industry you want to exhibit in, plus maybe city and state. The results will usually list multiple pages with show opportunities you may have otherwise missed. Play a little with keyword search variations for best results.

Industry Publications

Industry publications are also a good resource for finding shows. Many will list industry-wide trade shows or at least the shows they produce themselves. Visit the sites of large media corporations that publish industry publications. They often produce several industry shows per year. Editorial Calendars for large media corporations will commonly list shows as well. And of course, take advantage of the show list Exhibit City News publishes monthly.

Industry Associations

Industry associations tend to organize at least one annual National or International show and frequently also other regional events. Listings can be found on their web site’s event page. You can also find regional show listings by visiting event pages on the association’s regional chapter sites. Many industry associations also have sub groups that have their own web sites, don’t just limit your search to the umbrella organization.
Convention Centers and Visitors Bureaus

Listings of shows within particular cities can usually be found on web sites of convention centers and visitor bureaus. Besides the trade show calendars, you benefit from additional resources available on these sites, particularly once you have selected a show. You will find practical information about the show facility and the city’s attractions, including great places to take prospects and current customers to dinner or hold small events.

Newswire Websites

A few newswire companies offer trade show listings on their website. A good example of a well known company with a strong focus on trade shows is Business Wire®. When you visit their website, click on trade shows and events, where you will find show details listed by month, or sorted by industry. If you click on the news link on the right hand side, you will find additional show details, including exhibitor press releases for that show and a link to the show website.
Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce commonly offer table top expos for their members to exhibit at. If you belong to a Chamber, the show information will typically be announced at Chamber events, through announcements and flyers, in monthly newsletters and on their website. Remember though that most show attendees are other Chamber members not exhibiting, surrounding community and local businesses. Occasionally several local chambers collaborate to organize somewhat more regional events.


Here is a search method often overlooked. Check out the web sites of your competitors. Often they list the shows they will be exhibiting at.

OK, That’s your lesson for now; it’s time for your homework!


  • Prepare a master list of potential shows to exhibit at by using the search options in this month’s lesson; organize the show details in a spreadsheet.
  • Review the shows in the spreadsheet and determine which shows are the most targeted.
  • Keep the master list of shows and create a new spreadsheet for the shows you feel are the most targeted.
    Note: By keeping the master list, you can refer to it next time you are searching for shows. You may find some of the shows fit your business needs at that time.

About the Author
Jon Edelman provides exciting trade show marketing ideas, including advice about prize wheels, customizable scratch-off cards, money blowing machines, and other exciting trade show attractions. With years of experience in the trenches, he is an expert on booth displays, lead generation techniques, and networking with trade show vendors. Helping to build a referral-generating system, his ideas continuously lead to a boost in sales and revenue.