San Diego Business Journal

With more than 10,000 trade shows held in the United States annually, picking the one that will net you the greatest benefit for your investment of time and money can be daunting.

Begin your search by looking for trade shows that fit your product or service. You can find these out by looking in directories such as The Tradeshow & Convention Guide (BPI Communications) and The Tradeshow Week Data Book (Reed Reference), both of which list trade shows across the United States, as well as various show data.

On the Web, you can try one of the trade show search sites, including Expoguide (www.expoguide.com); Trade Show Central (www.tscentral.com), or Trade Show News Network (www.tsnn.com).

Another resource for finding out about shows is your industry's trade association, since many shows and conventions are sponsored by industry groups. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Convention Bureau may also be able to help you find out about smaller local shows.

Here are some additional tips to help you make the right choice:

& #711; Don't Just Choose By The Numbers

Big trade show crowds can actually be a waste of time if they don't include people who are buyers or prospective customers for your product or service. Look closely at statistics of past years' shows to help you evaluate whether attendees fit your customer profile. The show manager should be able to provide you with this data.

o Ask Your Customers For Help

Talk to your customers to find out what trade shows they attend, since shows that meet their needs will likely be attended by other prospects. You can also speak with your competitors to find out what shows they've found most useful.

o Check It Out Ahead Of Time

The best way to evaluate a show is to take a first-hand look. Before you sign up, go to the show as an attendee. Is the show active and exciting? Are the people walking the show floor potential customers? Who are the other exhibitors and where would your product/service fit in the mix? Talk to people and keep your eyes open.

o Evaluate It Carefully

Once you've got a list of show possibilities, ask these questions to determine if the show is the right one for your purposes:

& #711; Is it big enough to draw a cross-section of prospects and vendors , but not so large that you'll be competing against the giants in your industry?

& #711; Is it in the right place, geographically, to attract your customers , whether they are local, regional, national, or global?

& #711; Is it scheduled at a time when you can service the new business you'll attract and follow up on leads?

& #711; Are the show's promoters reliable and does the management have a proven track record of success?

o Don't Wait Until The Last Minute

Some popular shows fill up fast. If you wait too long, you could find yourself on a waiting list. Plus, the earlier you sign up for a show, the more choices you'll have regarding finding a good location for your booth.

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