Skip navigation
The Hitch Post
The huge potential of exhibiting at trade shows

The huge potential of exhibiting at trade shows

I once read a piece about the merits of exhibiting in a trade show, and it’s stuck with me for more than 15 years. The material can be applied to visiting a trade show as well as exhibiting at one. The author, Steve Miller, president of The Adventure LLC, presented a series of calculations to indicate the financial success of exhibiting at a show. I was intrigued by the hypothetical situation he described that seemed reasonable and logical.

It starts by multiplying the total number of hours a show will be open by the number of salespeople working the booth. If the show will be open 8 hr/day for three days, and you two salespeople will attend, you’ll rack up a total of 48 person-hours. Okay so far. You then multiply this figure by the number of prospects you expect each salesperson to garner each hour. Steve suggested six leads per person per hour, which seems excessive to me, but even if two is used, the final result is still impressive.

If we use the suggested 6/hr, we would finish the show with 288 qualified leads (48 X 6). Now, if an average of 10% of a company’s qualified leads result in a sale, and we multiply this figure (we’ll round it down to 28) by the average annual sales per customer, and the average number of years a customer stays with the company, we’ll end up with a total return on the investment for exhibiting at the show.

Steve’s hypothetical example assumes average annual sales per customer at $5,000, and that the average customer lasts 10 years. Our end result, then, would be $1.4 million generated by exhibiting at the show (28 X $5,000 X 10) .Even 1 1/2 leads/hr would return $350,000.

Perhaps a similar type of extrapolation can be applied to attending a trade show. You invest your time away from work plus travel expenses. What you gain are ideas from dozens of exhibitors gathered in a single place. You can:

* compare one vendor’s apples to another’s

* look for solutions to current problems, and even look for better solutions to problems you’ve already solved

* learn how application problems similar to yours— but from other industries — were solved (opportunities to share ideas with colleagues may occur relatively often, but trade shows present an opportunity to cross-pollinate problems and solutions between industries), and

* take a few minutes to learn about companies or technologies you hadn’t investigated or even heard of before.

I’m not sure how to calculate the success of attending a show, but you might find something if you check out Steve’s website, at