What is The ROI of a Trade Show?

Tom CoffinsmartPRENEUR Blog Series

If You Build it Will They Come?

It’s been a few soft years for trade shows. It will be very interesting to see what the turn out is like at CEDIA Expo 2022 this year. Emerald Expositions, the owner of the CEDIA Expo trade show, seems poised to be successful at bringing most manufacturers back to what used to be the biggest and most important trade show for the systems integration industry.

Is Regional More Effective?

The Total Tech Summit has been doing a great job of bringing system integrators and vendors together in a very business focused setting for many years, thanks to John Galante and team, and is now owned by Emerald. Mark Cichowski, a great business leader and full disclosure one of our smartPRENEUR Faculty for the 2022-2023 season, created a regional show with support from local manufacturer representatives called The Technology and Business Summit. In 2018 CEDIA, after selling the Expo, purchased these shows and expanded them throughout the US, Australia, India, and this year Canada. The shows are now called CEDIA Tech Summits.

Trade shows can be fun. You get to see lots of friends you have connected with over the years. Usually one or more of your important manufacturers will take you and your team out for a nice dinner. The big players like Snap One, Crestron, Savant will throw big parties with free food and libations along with some kind of entertainment.

Training and New Technologies

In years past, CEDIA Expo was a great place to get manufacturer training. There has been some rumblings on social media that there are much less of this available this year. That makes sense as no one knows what the participation is going to be like in 2022. During the pandemic, manufacturers got really good at providing training content via video. Some implemented online learning management systems.

Trade shows were a great place to see and hear the latest technologies. But the industry isn’t really about home theater and two channel audio anymore, is it. The industry is focused on “smart home” technologies, even branching out to wellness and getting very deep in lighting. Does one need to physically see these technologies? Websites can answer a lot of questions today.

What Questions Will Help Me Determine The ROI?

It may sound like I am down on trade shows. I am not. I love the comradery. I love seeing the systems integration industry growing and becoming a big industry. What once was a very small group of custom installers has grown into professional systems integrators due in no small part to organizations such as CEDIA and PARA.

The question is: What is the ROI on a trade show? How does one determine the value of spending the money to go to a trade show? Here are a few of the parameters we would use when I was a systems integrator. These might help you make an objective business decision.

My team needs training on a specific subject:

Is a manufacturer providing that specific training? Will it be in depth enough to justify pulling members of your team out of the field and spending the funds to fly them, house them, and feed them?

My Company is growing and I feel I can negotiate better terms with my manufacturers in person:

This used to be something that we did at my integration companies. We would put together our numbers from the previous years. Sometimes we’d even have a PowerPoint presentation to sell our opinion that we deserve better margins. Back then we had very positive outcomes with this technique. With the consolidation of so many brands under a few umbrellas, this may be more difficult to accomplish. If you do accomplish this, this is definitely a great ROI. Make sure the right people who can make financial decisions are in the room. Make it a win-win.

We are missing a key technology in our offerings:

Lighting fixtures and power systems come to mind. Or perhaps wellness. Adding a new technology to your offering requires several important factors to be considered. How will my potential customers react to our company selling this category? Is there a market? Do I need to create the market? Who are the right manufacturer partners for this new technology? What will it take to train my staff to design, sell, install, and service this new technology? If you can answer these questions, this is a great ROI as it can add more revenue per project by expanding your offerings.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In my conversations with our community of systems integrators on the smartOFFICE platform it seems less than 50% are heading to Dallas in September. No one I spoke to was concerned about being in too close proximity to other humans. I was very happy to hear that. The big reason for them not attending was: “We’re too busy.” With demand for systems integration still a bit pent up and the challenge of hiring enough technicians and other staff, the business owners are doing everything they can to increase their revenues and take all the opportunities they can. And that is what being an entrepreneur is all about. Only you can answer the question of what to do. You must ask yourself, “should I invest this time and money into going to a trade show?

About the Author

Tom Coffin

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Tom Coffin is CEO/President/Co-Founder of Simply Reliable. He has owned and operated companies in retail, security, Audio/Video, Systems Integration, and Home Automation product manufacturing sector.