Trade Show 101 | Welcome to the Invisible Industry

Welcome to the trade show industry!

Are you part of the so-called “Invisible Industry?”

If you’re reading this, you probably are!

The “Invisible Industry,” as it’s affectionately known, accounts for more than six million U.S. jobs and contributes hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue every year across the globe. 

So how can the trade show industry be so invisible?

It stems from the fact that the industry, which creates the shows and promotes all of the global brands, works behind the scenes, much like “back of house” at a theater production, the crew on a movie set, or the chefs cooking in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. While their work is experienced by hundreds of millions, the individuals and companies in the trade show industry don’t get that level of exposure. Hence, the “invisible industry.”

Still, there are trade shows for every industry in the world. The expo world can trace its roots back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. From Biblical times to the Great Exhibit of 1851, the trade show industry has helped shape international trends, cultures, every major technology, and more.

From the high-pressure environment of the trade show floor to rewarding post-show celebrations, the events industry can truly be an exhilarating roller coaster ride!

But what exactly is a trade show – and how do they work?

This new, Trade Show 101 series is taking a closer look.

What is a trade show?

Trade shows, also known as trade fairs, trade exhibitions, or trade expositions – depending on your region – are gatherings where companies in a specific industry can showcase their latest products to customers, industry partners, analysts, and the media. Trade shows also serve as a way for companies to examine market trends, study the activities of competitors, and even recruit new employees.

As you can imagine, the multi-faceted role of trade shows require companies to take a careful and calculated approach with their trade show planning. While trade shows are largely marketing endeavors, they also serve vital roles in sales, procurement, and strategic partnerships, requiring cross-collaboration among key players and departments. 

The trade show biosphere

Whether it’s the Dubai Airshow or the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), trade shows can range widely from industry to industry. Some take on a more formal business focus while others are more casual, entertaining and consumer friendly. Trade shows can come in all shapes and sizes and can take on a variety of appearances and styles.

As we mentioned earlier, the trade show industry accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars in global revenue every year, driving much of the world’s business travel, and contributes a substantial portion of the overall hospitality and tourism industry.

Trade shows are part of the specific “MICE sector” of the hospitality industry, which is an acronym for meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions. Despite only being a portion of the overall industry, trade shows, and the rest of the MICE sector, have led to the creation of entire local infrastructures dedicated solely to their needs. From many of the resorts on the Las Vegas Strip to the halls of McCormick Place in Chicago, the trade show industry is a formidable, and profitable, player in the economy.

Whether marketing or sales endeavors, trade shows are big business and imperative to industry success. They represent a key cog in effective face-to-face marketing plans.

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NEXT Lab is a dynamic, experiential, and creative team dedicated to developing unique digital and virtual experiences for trade shows, museums, education spaces, marketing initiatives, and interior environments. Learn More