Pulling together a Top 10 trade show list is somewhat problematical. Most lists are based on square footage (the “largest”), show attendance (the “biggest”), number of exhibitors (the “largest display of products” or “exciting number of new product announcements”) or industry focus (the “industry’s premier event”). While these lists are great for promoting an event and can be useful for marketers planning their marketing programs, their utility stops there.
The typical Top Anything list based on a simple number such as square footage or number of attendees is not much use to a marketer trying to select events to participate in. As we all know, these events are very expensive and almost everyone has their own approach for prioritizing possible shows. Sales teams want to go to all shows in their region, product marketing likes shows that their competitors attend, industry marketing wants to make a splash and PR rates shows on the media that attend. And many people still believe in the “if we don’t attend the leading shows people will think something is wrong with us” myth!
There is also the Big vs Small show argument. High foot traffic at big shows can certainly increase the number of booth visitors, but big shows can cost tens of thousands of dollars and the competition for attention is intense. There is also a case to be made that while the number of attendees is large, the percentage that are in your target market sweet spot is certainly smaller.
The trend today is moving toward smaller, more focused events that attract a specific audience. While booth traffic is not heavy (in fact, the exhibit hall is frequently closed so attendees can go to conference sessions), the quality of each contact is higher (right person, more time to interact). From a marketing perspective, it is also easier to “make a splash” with a product announcement, sponsorship or keynote presentation and with a bit of effort, your booth will stand out.
The most important list that a marketer uses to select a trade show is their list of goals for the event. Do you want to announce a new product? Cover a specific geography? Hold media briefings? Meet with key customers? Make a splash? Only when the goals are defined and prioritized can a proper “which events should we attend” decision be made.
To fulfill the promise made in the title of this post, here is a list of top hi-tech shows in the U.S. It contains both large and small shows and includes events from several industry segments. This list is strictly a “public event” list and does not include “invitation only” shows such as those sponsored by Apple (Worldwide Developers Conference), Intel (Intel Developers Forum), Microsoft, Cisco and others. It also does not include international shows such as Mobile World Congress and CeBIT. Oh, and this is actually the Top 23, not Top 10.
|Consumer Electronics Show||Consumer Electronics||160,000||3,673|
|NAB – NA Broadcasting||Electronic Media||98,000||1,600|
|E3 Expo||Computer and Video Games||48,900||200|
|Super Mobility 2015||Wireless Communications||40,000||1,100|
|Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society||Healthcare Information Technology||38,000||1,200|
|InfoComm||Audio Visual Communications||37,000||980|
|Semicon West||Semiconductor and Electronic Manufacturing||30,000||650|
|RSA Conference||Information Security||28,500||350|
|Game Developers Conference||Video Game Development||26,000||350|
|SPIE Photonics West||Biophotonics and Biomedical Optics||20,000||1,250|
|Clinical Lab Expo||Medical Equipment||18,000||700|
|Medical Design and Manufacturing West||Medical Technology||16,000||2,373|
|OFC-NFOEC||Optical Solutions for Telecom, Datacom and Computing||12,700||550|
|Networld Interop||IT Technology||12,000||300|
|Super Computing||High Performance Computing||10,200||356|
|SCTE Cable-Tec Expo||Cable Communications||9,100||376|
|International Wireless Communications Expo||Wireless Communications Systems||7,000||350|
|Display Week||Electronic Displays||6,500||245|
|IPC APEX Expo||PCB Design and Manufacturing||5,000||478|
|MILCOM 2015||Military Communications, C4ISR||4,000||200|
|Embedded Systems Conference||Electronic design for communications and semiconductors||2,500||60|
|Aircraft Electronics Association||Avionics||1,500||135|