Point of Beginning

What is the future of the trade show?

January 8, 2003
What is the future of the trade show? There are several short-term and long-term factors that can have an impact on the answer to this question. One relatively short-term factor that plays into the equation is the struggling economy, which has caused a decline in many companies’ and individual’s travel budgets. A long-term factor to consider is the Internet and how it is evolving more and more everyday into our primary source for information. When the information is at our fingertips, we may not be as inclined to physically go out and seek it, nor do we have as much time to do so.

On the other hand, the Internet cannot replace the networking opportunities and expert lectures/workshops that often accompany a trade show. Also, the increasing trend of requiring continuing education and professional development hours may draw more people than ever to attend trade shows. It’s a tough call, but perhaps the results of this Point of View poll give some insight into the future of the trade show. Surveyors seem to have a positive outlook, almost 80 percent of those who responded to this poll said they thought the future of surveying conferences is strong.

Of the 127 respondents to this poll, 70 said they attended their annual state surveying conference; that’s 55 percent. Another 35 percent said they attended their respective state’s surveying conference some years and 5 percent said they hadn’t as of yet, but plan to in the future. Only 5 percent said they did not attend because they did not see the benefits of doing so.

As for the national conferences, only 5 percent said they attended a national conference every year. Thirty-six (36) percent, however, said they attended national conferences some years and 38 percent said they hadn’t yet but have plans to do so. Twenty (20) percent stated they did not attend because they do not see the benefits. Most respondents (35) listed the ACSM conference as the national conference they attend (that’s 66 percent of those who replied that they attend national conferences). Other mentions were NSPS, ESRI and WFPS.

Although of course many factors come into play when deciding to attend a conference or trade show, when asked what the one greatest factor considered was, most people were split almost evenly. Twenty percent responded that it was the general knowledge offering of the show; 19 percent said it was the distance or location of the show, 17 percent said whether or not continuing education credits were offered was the biggest consideration; 18 percent said it was time and/or schedule factors; and 17 percent said it was their budget and/or the cost of the show. Networking opportunities lagged behind at 7 percent.

Seventy-two percent stated that attending industry conferences is valuable, only two percent said it was not valuable and 24 percent said they found it valuable sometimes.

The biggest benefit of attending a show according to 63 percent of those surveyed was the opportunity to exchange ideas and information with peers. Vendor exhibits were considered most beneficial by only 6 percent, while the technical information available garnered 19 percent of the votes. Networking opportunities only got 7 percent of the vote.

Factors that would cause respondents not to attend a conference are not having the time (31 percent), it being too far away (37 percent), not having an adequate travel budget (26 percent) and being able to obtain all the information online (4 percent).

Where do most industry professionals get their product information? Periodicals were the biggest response with 46 percent of the vote. Manufacturers’ websites got 16 percent of the vote and networking and word of mouth drew another 15 percent of the responses. Trade shows got 13 percent, calling manufacturers directly, six percent and two percent listed other methods.

Of those who responded, 87 percent were land surveyors, 11 percent were both land surveyors and engineers and two percent were engineers.