Four out of five exhibitors (81 percent) have scaled back their trade show participation over the past year due to the economy, and many are regretting their decision, according to a new report from Champion Exposition Services.

The Middleboro, Mass.–based company surveyed 1,002 exhibiting companies in May and June and found that the most common trade show cutback was sending fewer staff. About 56 percent of those surveyed sent fewer staff to trade shows, and of those, 39 percent report that they regret it.

Another common concession was cutting the number of shows on the calendar. Roughly 39 percent of respondents participated in fewer shows this year, with 56 percent regretting the decision. As the economy recovers, 51 percent of the respondents plan to participate in more exhibitions.

Why do exhibitors participate in trade shows? To get leads (79 percent), to create brand awareness and/or grow market share (75 percent), and to launch new products (33 percent). Most exhibitors use more than one metric to gauge their success on the trade show floor, including:

  • number of leads collected (75 percent),
  • booth traffic (59 percent),
  • quality of leads collected (54 percent), and
  • sales resulting from the trade show leads (52 percent).
Also, 62 percent of respondents say that trade show expenditures represent more than a quarter of their marketing budget.

Leslie Brand, vice president of marketing for Wheelhouse Solutions, parent organization of Champion, says the trade show industry is in a period of transition. “Exhibitors report that participation in trade shows is not just about selling products or services. As stakeholders in their industries, they are looking for ways to leverage a return on the investment throughout the year and stay connected to others in their industry,” said Brand, in a press release.

To Brand’s point about staying connected, the survey reports that roughly 57 percent of exhibitors use social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) to promote their event-related activities.

For more on the survey, visit the Champion Web site.

For more on the study, visit Champion’s Web site.