The Best Trade Shows in the World for Associations

explore the best trade shows in the world for associations

The Purpose of Trade Shows

Trade shows are one of the best ways to expand your association. Whether it’s expanding public knowledge of your brand or expanding your revenue sources, you need to have your eye out for the top trade shows if you plan on attending one. So where can you find the largest events and the latest products?

With trade shows popping up all over the United States and North America, it’s no wonder they’ve turned into a global event. Check out 12 of our favorite trade shows from around the world, and find out where to collect leads and advertise your products and services next!

But before we start, you should also know that there is no end for places to exhibit your association at a trade show. So check out this handy trade show calendar for trade shows geared for your specific brand in your region.

exhibit your association at a trade show

1. India International Mega Trade Fair

We all know that anything in life is about three simple things: location, location, location. So… where’s the best location? Probably where there are the most people!

The India International Mega Trade Fair is one of the largest trade fairs in the entire world. So no matter what you’re repping, you’re bound to run into your audience here with people visiting from over 100 countries. This is truly one of the most popular trade shows out there!

2. IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition

Labeled as the “show for shows”, this is where associations come to learn about the newest and latest industry trends and technologies that are shaping the world. Filled with educational sessions, you will leave knowing all about the best new innovations in the industry!

3. Intersec

Intersec is one of the largest trade shows in the Middle East, with over thirty-five thousand visitors attending it’s 2019 Trade Show. 35,000 is no small number. So you know that means they’ve got something everybody wants! Intersec is an especially great showcase for associations within the fire and safety industry.

4. Canton Trade Show

One of the best indicators of quality in business is age. You can’t stick around for over 100 shows if people aren’t interested in what you’re selling. So you know that the Canton Trade Show in China must be doing something right because this Spring will be their 125th show. The trade show covers 13 million square feet of nothing but associations getting out the good word.

make connections and create leads at trade shows specifically for association members

5. Manhattan Momentum

Find out what over 1,000 industry professionals have known for 25 years at this year’s annual Manhattan Momentum trade show. The market their show as one of the best places for learning and connection. They start off their 4-day show with a first-time attendee mixer, so what have you got to lose? Make lasting connections.

6. Event Tech

Here’s one for the associations that are heavily involved with their social media presence. The Event Tech trade show is all about how to utilize the social media presence you have, and how to make it even stronger. In this day and age, social media sets the stage; so find your place on that stage.

explore all the new tech offered to associations at trade shows

7. PCMA’s Convening Leaders

Find out why attendees of PCMA’s show are leaving with their motto “Disrupt+Deliver” on their lips. Convening Leaders strive to figure out how audience behaviors affect their interactions with brands and merchandise. Join in to find out what everyone is saying!

8. The Special Event

Find out what’s so special about the Special Event. Every year The Special Event is host to a great mixture of educational seminars and attendees on the sales floor exchanging ideas and connections for associations.

9. International Confex

Whether your association hosts domestic or international events, the International Convex is a show you’re going to want to visit. Industry leaders and over 350 suppliers pool their knowledge and resources to make this event just as much fun as it is informative.

make long-lasting connections with other association members at trade shows

10. ACCED-I Annual Conference

Speaking of event organizers, let’s talk specifically to collegiate event organizers. The Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International are holding their 39th annual event this March. Find out from over 1,500 campus professionals why everyone is traveling to Pittsburgh to attend this conference.    

11. Pharma Forum

Pharmaceuticals is one of the leaders in the field of science, and the Pharma Forum is one of the biggest meetings of the pharmaceutical minds in North America. This year marks their 15th annual event. See why they say the Pharma Forum is one of “the most impactful networking experiences” in the pharma industry!

12. WEC19

The WEC19 in Toronto, Ontario is an annual event of epic proportions. MPI is the world’s largest meeting and event industry association in the world, and their annual WEC meeting is justifiably gigantic. Come be part of the more than 2,000 professionals attending this great event. Spread knowledge of your association while picking up some of the latest trends and tactics.

attending trade shows around the world will give you more insight about your association

Attending Trade Shows around the World

Well, here’s our list! We talked about some of the best and brightest upcoming trades shows in the USA and around the world. But don’t worry, there’s a never-ending supply of trade shows and events for your association to be involved in and visit.

Check out that show finder link we provided at the beginning of the article to find shows that are close to you and pertain to your specific industry and interests!

Manage Your Buyer’s Guide for Non-Dues Revenue

generate ideas to gain more non-dues revenue for your association

Non-Dues Revenue-Generating Ideas for Associations

Your association’s buyer’s guide is a great tool for disseminating information and products to your association members. But if you’re using it only to sell your members on retaining their membership, you’re selling yourself short when generating ideas for non-dues revenue.

So how can your association use its buyer’s guide to generate additional revenue for your association? Well, first, we need to talk about what kind of buyer’s guide we have already.

Tailor-Making Your Buyer’s Guide

We all know the old adage, “know your audience”. And it’s an important thing to keep in mind for your association. Especially when we’re thinking about ways to generate additional value that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the core values of your association.

But perhaps you’re not even trying to reach your loyal association members. These are all key ideas to consider when we’re talking about buyer’s guides and their ability to add to your total revenue.

Different Types of Buyer’s Guides

consider first-time buyers when creating buyer's guides

Long-Time-First-Time

The first type of buyer’s guide for your association to consider is one for a first-time buyer. What can you offer a member who has never purchased any of your association’s goods or services?

We want to clearly and concisely lay out the process and benefits of everything that we have to offer our members. What can we tell them without overloading? Think of how you sell at trade shows. What is your elevator pitch?

compare and contrast member benefits when creating buyer's guides

Compare and Contrast

Of course, you have more to offer your members than a single product or service. But we know that perhaps, what’s right for some, isn’t right for all. Here’s your chance to go a little more in depth with what you can offer. What additional member benefits are you able to provide? What are the benefits of one product or service in comparison to another?

This is your opportunity to show that you can understand your members on a personal basis. Show that you understand what makes your base diverse, as well as unified.

Product Add-Ons

show your association members how your products surpass what other associations can offer in their buyer's guides

Here’s another idea that is not unfamiliar: upselling. If you’ve got your members in the door already, you know that you’ve got something they want. Hopefully, it’s also something that no one else can offer them. If you’re offering branded merchandise, it is likely that this is the case.

So what can you do to further separate your association from the herd and become a front runner? You need to show your audience that your products and services are not the end of the road. What can we tack on to further the experience of inclusion and membership?

Post-Purchase Help

make sure members are provided a buyer's guide that works as a manual for the members who have opted in

We want our members to feel that we are with them every step of the way. So our buyer’s guides shouldn’t stop once the check is cleared. For members who have opted in, provide a buyer’s guide that acts as an instructional manual.

Show them how to use your products and services, but don’t let it stop right there. Show your gratitude for your members’ continued patronage (especially outside of simply paying their membership dues). If possible, offer certifications to your members through your buyer’s guides. This will bolster that feeling of inclusion, which is exactly where we’d like to stay.

Formatting Tips for Any Type of Buyer’s Guides

when creating your buyer's guides, make sure they are clear and concise

No matter if we’re writing guides for first-time buyers, or people who have had our products or services for years, you want your guide to be simple. This doesn’t mean simply using monosyllabic phrases, but again being clear and concise.

Avoid long-winded phrases and too much jargon. We want this to be something anyone could use to help them. Even if someone were to pick your buyer’s guide up off the street, they should be able to take a clear understanding from it.

It can also be very helpful to break up your guides into small paragraphs with lots of appropriate headings. Long paragraphs are sure to have your members losing their place. And more importantly, they’re going to lose interest and stop reading.

We live in a fast-paced world, and part of understanding that is having information readily available. Use a content page or bold headers to easily direct your members to the information they need and want see most.

Be Authentic

create authentic buyer's guides for your association members

According to a poll by Association Adviser, more than half of associations believed that sources of non-dues revenue accounted for 25-50% of their gross revenue stream every year. Clearly, there is a lot of money to be made in creating non-dues revenue.

If you’re successfully selling something you and your members believe in, you’ll be able to create an increase in non-dues revenue. Whether you’re using advertising sales, retail sales, merchandise sales, or providing services, make sure it aligns with the values and needs of your members. Think of the reasons why your members invest time and money into your association and follow that line of thought.

Put it Into Practice

find the right venue when putting your buyer's guides into practice

So now that we’ve talked about the different kinds of buyer’s guides, and what makes a good one, so it’s time to think about how you’re putting it into practice. What’s going to be your venue for these buyer’s guides?

If you have a lot of physical interaction with your members, maybe you want to have that physical buyer’s guide. However, increasingly we live in a digital world. If you have a strong social media presence, don’t ignore it!

This can be a great place to reach a really wide audience. Social media has the added benefit of allowing your members to easily help you share your goods and information with friends and colleagues who might be equally interested.

generating non-dues revenue has a lot to do with the buyer's guide

Generating Non-Dues Revenue

No matter how you plan to generate revenue outside of membership dues, always stay true to your association. There’s nothing that can turn an audience quicker than feeling like they’ve been lied to. So don’t lie to yourself either. There is easy money out there to be made, but you don’t have to do it at the expense of your association’s integrity, or your members’.

How to Creatively Collect Leads and Leave a Lasting Impression at Industry Trade Shows

Trade show marketing at industry events is a great way to create new contacts for your association and to keep in contact with existing members.

But how can you make sure that you’re getting the highest return on the time and energy you are investing in trade shows?


10 Creative Ways to Collect Leads at Trade Shows

Check out these 10 tips for creative ways to collect leads so you can spend your time, and resources, wisely.

cell phone with inbound marketing strategy website, which is one way to start thinking about how you want to create buzz before you collect leads at trade shows

The first step to having a successful trade show outing is knowing what you define as a success. Are you trying to gain a certain number of new members for your association? Are you trying to build a new list of warm leads or do you want to increase engagement with the ones you already have? Or maybe you’re just trying to see what the competition is up to.

Knowing what you want to get out of your trade show experience, and coming up with a resourceful marketing strategy, are the most critical aspects of a successful trade show. Set your expectations and goals before you start to collect leads. Ensure your focus is on what, or who in this case, will move the needle and drive success for your association.

Create a Social Media Following for your Association Before You Collect Leads

develop a social media following before you collect leads at an industry trade show

You can start developing a following long before you arrive at the trade show by engaging with people on social media. Create a Facebook event to let potential association members know when you’ll be at the show, and where you are located on the exhibition floor. Create a poll on Twitter asking what sort of information potential contacts might want to see at your association’s booth.

Get some brand awareness going before you arrive to create excitement around what your association has to offer potential members. When you create buzz on social media before the trade show, you can then strike up a dialogue with potential members (and even existing members) who enjoy your posts online. It’s much easier to collect an engaged lead this way.

Ask for Their Information with Confidence

people shaking hands

Don’t just wait for potential leads to visit your association’s booth. Walk up to people, talk with them and shake their hand. Ask them about their business before you try to collect their information. Don’t make them feel like you’re just there to collect leads. Create interactions with potential leads that is both personal and memorable. Positive, individualized interactions are going to yield to more enthusiastic leads, who will turn into potential members of your association.

Make Your Association’s Booth Interactive

A great way to give your booth some staying power is to make it an interactive experience. Ask provocative trivia questions to make potential members want to know more about your association. Invest in technology that is memorable, cool, and different from what everyone else is doing. Turn your booth into the place to be at the trade show.


Giving potential leads a stimulating experience at your booth will also make those folks want to tell other people to hit up your association. It’s free advertising!

Provide High-Quality Giveaways as a Way to Collect Leads

Let’s face it, we all know that some people are just perusing the trade show because they want the swag you’re offering. And while these things do cost money, providing quality giveaway items is going to make your association look a lot better than the cheaper alternatives. (How many pens and keychains does one person need?)

Get a t-shirt you would want to wear or a coffee mug that you would want to drink out of. A giveaway that is made out of quality materials is going to reflect well upon your association and its perceived value. And most importantly, make sure whatever you give away has your association’s name and all of its contact information presented plainly yet thoughtfully.

You Need a Powerful Call To Action to Collect Leads

A positive interaction doesn’t have to stop when someone walks away from your booth. Like we mentioned earlier, give these folks a reason to tell other people to visit your booth.

For instance, you could incentivize people to tell other potential leads to visit your booth to win a BIG prize that you are giving away. Consider partnering with a travel company that trades free publicity at your booth in exchange for a vacation that you can raffle off.

Or maybe you only give your t-shirts to people who return to your booth with another person. You could make it a challenge to have your leads pass around business cards with their info on the back for a chance to earn even more free goodies like wireless headphones, a $1,000 Amex gift card, or a free membership for a year. Another thing you can do is encourage likes and follows on social media for prizes. The sky is the limit here when it comes to cool swag and creative contests.

Interact With Other Booths and Do Your Recon Work

We all know the old phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. See what the other booths around you are up to. Find out what giveaways they are offering, and what information they are presenting. Knowing what your competition is up to can give you the edge you need to have an easier time collecting leads. Offer what others can’t, and offer it better!


business people shaking hands who met at an industry trade show

Spend your time checking out the booths of associations you’re not competing with as well. They may have an idea that would work great for your booth, and perhaps even in a different way.

Squeeze Pages and Interactive Kiosks Go Hand in Hand

You might be familiar with a landing page. A squeeze page is the same idea, but with one specific goal: to collect potential leads for your association. For the exchange of a person’s contact information – their name, email address, etc- you offer a prize like an e-book or access to a podcast.

And interactive kiosks and squeeze pages are pretty much a match made in heaven. The best part about running your CRM squeeze page on an interactive kiosk is that it can store all of the data you collect digitally for easy retrieval. Also, many companies offer interactive kiosk rentals so you don’t need to purchase the machine outright.

We all know that business cards pile up quickly, and they can get lost easily. Web-based software on an interactive kiosk is a great way to capture leads safely and securely, while showing that you are an association that embraces technology and looks toward the future.

Not Ready for a Kiosk? Check Out Alternative Tech for Your Booth

If you’re not ready for an interactive kiosk, fear not! Do you know there are apps for your phone that can also assist in data collection?

Check out this squeeze page app that allows you to easily transfer data between your devices. There are also apps that can act as a business card scanner. You can even use your phone as a badge scanning device to quickly collect information and keep the conversation personal.

man writing a personal note to one of the leads he collected at a trade show

Personalize Your Follow-Up

Something we repeatedly touch upon is that a personalized experience makes for a memorable one. Take notes about what you discuss with your potential leads so that you can follow up later on with a response that lets them know you remember who they are and what they care about.

People want to feel important, and letting them know that they are important is going to leave a lasting impression on potential members who are considering joining your association.

Make Your Trade Show a Marketing Campaign Success!

Trade shows can be an invaluable way of collecting qualified leads for your association. Be sure to make the most of your time and money; set yourself apart from the competition by engaging in high quality interactions. Leave people feeling good. Remember, the cream always rises to the top!