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Can You Better Serve Your Tradeshow Market?

By / Jan 3, 2014 Agenda, a tradeshow which focuses on streetwear, drew an audience by targeting up-and-coming vendors that got overshadowed at other events. (press photo)

Is there a way associations can make sure they are living up to current attendee and exhibitor expectations and developing new audiences at the same time?

Earlier this week as I was catching up on the meetings and tradeshow-related reading that I missed while out on vacation over the holidays, I came across an interesting article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

If you’re not thinking about how to better serve your market, there’s likely someone else out there who is.

The piece profiled Aaron Levant, who founded the streetwear-focused fashion tradeshow Agenda 11 years ago at age 19. Levant is a go-getter: He launched a clothing brand at 16 and attended large fashion tradeshows to get the word out. As an exhibitor, he noticed it was hard to get his product noticed among larger, more well-known fashion brands. So, he started throwing small industry festivals in his Los Angeles warehouse.

Then when he noticed there was only a big show for board sports clothing companies, he started a smaller one, attracting 30 companies at $500 a booth. He took this same approach with Agenda, which attracted 250 buyers in its first year. Today the tradeshow, which is invitation-only for exhibitors, has expanded beyond its original location in Long Beach, California, to include New York City and Las Vegas as well. Levant told the Review-Journal that he credits the show’s success to the fact that he’s also a customer. “I have a deep-rooted, organic friendship with the industry,” he said.

It was this quote that brought it back to associations for me. After all, associations and their tradeshows want to have that type of friendship with the industries they serve. They don’t want their exhibitors or attendees going out and starting a tradeshow simply because the organization is not serving them how they’d like it to. But given a number of factors, including costs and staffing, associations can’t create new tradeshows for every audience. So they have to remain strategic, making sure they’re attracting, retaining, and growing the right audiences for their tradeshows in a way that works best for them.

Take the National Association of Broadcasters, which late last month announced it had purchased the assets of the Content and Communications World (CCW) and Satellite Communications Conference and Expo (SATCON) from JD Events. These events, held annually in November, are co-located at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, and NAB believes they will complement its existing tradeshows and events.

CCW focuses on content creation, management, and delivery technologies, while SATCON offers education and exhibits serving companies in the satellite-enabled communications and content-delivery industry.

“We have made these additions to the NAB event family with the goal of growing both the attendee and exhibitor base of what has emerged as an important East Coast venue for the content community,” said Executive Vice President of NAB Conventions and Business Operations Chris Brown, in a press release. “We look forward to developing this event and serving the unique needs of this very important media market.”

This example shows how an association can be proactive and identify and market to new exhibitors and attendees in hopes of generating additional nondues revenue, as well as increasing member, exhibitor, and attendee loyalty. Unfortunately, if you’re not thinking about how to better serve your market, there’s likely someone else out there who is—and he or she may even be a current attendee or exhibitor.

How is your association responding to trends that are shaking up the tradeshow and exhibit industry? Please share your story in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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