The 5 Motivating Factors That Get Exhibitors and Attendees to Trade Shows

Five reasons for coming to a trade show

According to the Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business, attendees and exhibitors have five reasons for coming to a trade show.

The five factors listed below are from the most important to the least for each segment.


  • Promote their brand
  • Enhance relationships with existing partners
  • Develop new leads
  • Network with industry peers
  • Introduce new products and services


  • Attend educational sessions
  • Learn about new products and services
  • Network with industry peers
  • Attend panel discussions and workshops
  • Enhance relationships with existing partners

As you can see, three of the five reasons for coming to a trade show are the same for both parties; the primary difference is in sales and marketing (for exhibitors) and education (for attendees).

What can you learn from this if you are the show manager? Let’s look at each party’s three common motivating factors and explore other factors that will bring them to your next show.

Enhance Relationships with Existing Partners

Both exhibitors and attendees want to connect with and develop better relationships with their clients, sponsors and vendors.

Exhibitors can invite attendees to a VIP meeting with their company president or ask them to come by the booth at a specific time for a one-on-one meeting. The key is to make more time with existing clients and sell them add-on services or products.

Attendees want to feel welcomed by exhibitors and have a more memorable experience than the typical trade show attendee. Meeting with their account representative, a sneak peek into brand new offerings or sponsoring a client-only networking session are ways to help make the relationship stronger.

Network with Industry Peers

This has always been a contributing factor, especially for attendees. Knowing who will be at the trade show and having time with respected industry peers is invaluable to them. In addition, exhibitors like to meet and greet other exhibitors, especially those they can partner with when marketing their solutions. For example, suppose a Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), its member hotels and event venues are at the same trade show. In that case, they can encourage attendees to visit each other’s booths while building on their relationships when they are off the trade show floor.

Set aside unique networking events for attendees and exhibitors. Use icebreakers to draw in introverted participants. Hold the networking event in impressive function space, away from the trade show floor.

Introduce or Learn about New Products and Services

Most of the top U.S. trade shows have an element of product introduction. This piques attendees’ interest; they want to learn more about ways this new offering can make their company more productive and competitive.

According to Spark Presentations, the number one influence on an attendee’s buying propensity is their interaction with booth personnel. Ensure your people have in-depth knowledge about the innovative offering – possibly adding the engineering team to your staffing.

Other Influencers

Exhibitor magazine pegs the cost of floor space at $20-138 per square foot, depending on the venue, city, size of the booth and the quality of the traffic. At a median cost of $59 per square foot, a 10 x 10 inline space can run $4,500, and that doesn’t include booth technology, lighting and furniture rentals. Add in staff transportation, lodging, giveaways and marketing and the cost can approach over $10,000.

An attendee spends an average of $1,375 for registration, accommodations and transportation.

If you are having difficulty securing trade show exhibitors and attendees, you may wish to dig into your cost, whether or not the venue is attractive to both audiences, and the quality of the traffic you attract to the trade show.

Attendees generally favor trade shows that last 2-3 days. According to research, a one-day trade show isn’t enough time for exhibitors or attendees to enhance their relationships or grow their networks. On the other hand, trade shows longer than three days become stale, and attendance dwindles significantly after day three.