Exhibiting at trade shows sucks

Going to trade shows as a visitor is always fun. You get to see lots of different products, you can get many freebies and you can always end the day by going sightseeing, or hanging out in some parties that the staff or some exhibitors are organizing. Personally you’ll probably enjoy it, but the expense associated with exhibiting in a trade fair usually doesn’t compensate for the value it can bring to your business.

Last month, I attended the Web Summit, one of those startup/tech conferences, as an exhibitor. I had been to trade fairs many times, but I had never had the chance to exhibit at one of these before. My cofounders and I were very excited since it was the first time we’d had a booth to show Joiner to all the attendees who would supposedly come in hordes to hear about the next hot products. Yet, of all the visitors who walked by, I noticed how seldom people actually paid attention to what others were doing. Let alone getting something positive when approaching these (few) interested visitors. It felt like being a small banner ad in a webpage cluttered with dozens of other ads.

I don’t think it’s worth it to exhibit at a trade show, at least in our case and many others. Your company will fork out a good amount of cash to get a good booth, and if it aspires to create an impact, this has a cost as well. The only booths that get attention are those which have a big shiny space with cool stuff to demo, lots of swag to give away and a contest going on. If you don’t comply with all of this, you are severely diminishing your chances of succeeding in your quest to attract the swarm. OK, you’ve killed it there, so what? What has your CAC been? I bet there are many better ways to spend your funding if you want to acquire users.

Oh yeah, it turns out you’re not there for “land grab” purposes. I understand. You’ve actually come to “help” the press and investors notice you. I have bad news for you. The press (at least the relevant press, that’s what you are looking for) won’t bother coming to the exhibition venue just to be spammed by dozens of irrelevant startups. If you were remarkable they would probably have already heard of you. The same applies to investors. Investors don’t just go to a startups trade show to start offering startups funding. This doesn’t go this way just as girls never come up to ask me if I’m single in a nightclub. Meetings with investors are closed through introductions, and you won’t get introductions without being awesome. Just get to be awesome at whatever you’re doing and don’t worry, the right people will find you.

 
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