New Thoughts on Trade Show Co-Locations

By Jeff Burnstein, Executive Vice President, Automation Technologies Council

Trade show co-locations are a hot topic in manufacturing events today.  For-profit trade show producers are putting four and five shows together, guided by the concept that bigger is better.  As a trade association that sponsors trade shows (International Robots & Vision Show and The Vision Show), ATC is constantly assessing its own thoughts on co-locations in our effort to provide the best trade shows possible for attendees and exhibitors alike.

We have tried several approaches in the past (we’ve been the smaller event next to a much larger show, the larger event next to a smaller show, and we’ve also held stand-alone shows).  Each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

And, I’ve recently visited some of the “five shows at one time” events in order to make my own assessment of whether or not these link-ups are truly beneficial.

What I’ve concluded is that putting a bunch of shows together just to have more visitors on the floor isn’t really useful.  In my opinion, one qualified booth visitor is better than ten visitors who stumble across your booth from the next aisle where they were looking at something completely different and have no understanding of or interest in what you’re exhibiting. 

The real power of a co-location is when a visitor can see multiple technologies and products that they are interested in at the same time and place, allowing them to accomplish in one or two days what might normally require several shows or months of research. 

This was very clear to me at the recent International Robots & Vision Show.  Our event was co-located with Sensors Expo, a show smaller than ours but filled with technology that would be of interest to someone looking at robotics, machine vision, and motion control.  Best of all, our event is really a co-location all by itself, with more synergy than ever between the technologies on display.  The motion control pavilion (the first time we’ve had this on our floor) was crowded with interested and knowledgeable visitors.  The sessions on Motion Control (the first time we’ve offered this topic at our conference) were packed.    Vision and robots are being used together now in increasing numbers, a trend that makes the International Robots & Vision Show extremely valuable for manufacturing companies using or considering using these technologies.

Exhibitors located anywhere on our floor knew that they were seeing qualified prospects interested in what they were showing.  There was no need to augment this with “bodies” from co-located events that offered quantity, not quality.    

I contrasted my experience at our show with a recent visit to one of the purported “mega shows” with multiple events.  I was confused walking the floor.  In one aisle I was looking at highly automated equipment for the factory floor and in the next aisle looking at completely unrelated technologies.  Some exhibitors reported that they found little value from many of the visitors stopping by their booth, taking valuable time away from conversations with real prospects.

Sometimes bigger isn’t better and more is less.  We’re keeping this in mind as we plan our future trade show strategy and I imagine all of the exhibitors in our show as well as the attendees will be thinking about this, too, as they make their future trade show plans.

It’s interesting that when we look for information on the internet, we want to drill down as specifically as possible to find exactly what we’re looking for.  The recent trend of putting unrelated trade shows together seems to go in an opposite direction.  It may seem like a good idea on the surface, but in the end, it may best serve the interests of the for-profit trade show producers and their venture capital investors, not the industries we’re working so hard to promote every day at ATC.

That’s my opinion – what’s yours?


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