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’.

Sponsorships: Hidden Gems of Incremental Revenue

optimizing sponsorships packages brings incremental revenue back to associations

Optimize Sponsorship Packages Maximize Your Associations Non-Dues Revenue

Maximizing revenue for associations is more than just searching for additional membership dues. Sponsorships are now more vital than ever for associations struggling to maximize their NDR. Within each association, there are multiple opportunities for additional revenue streams. Incremental revenue gains are created by adding value to existing products or services to increase exposure for your customers.  Maximizing your NDR (aka non-dues revenue) is an easily forgotten method of increasing total revenue.

To increase the amount you can charge for your sponsorship packages means optimizing your assets to increase the value of the packages to the sponsors through an increased audience, or additional exposure to a select group.

Types of Sponsorship Packages

Increasing value for sponsors exists in many forms.

A few examples of NDR are shown below:

  • Allow sponsors to access members at a conference
  • Display sponsor advertising inside an association newsletter
  • Display sponsorship materials at a networking event
  • Invite a sponsor to co-host a webinar
  • Display sponsorship messages on the association website
  • Post sponsorship messages to association social media sites

trade shows serve as a fantastic platform for your association's sponsorships packages

Sponsorship opportunities can be attached to virtually every interaction an association has with its members. By offering sponsorship packages, additional revenue streams are realistically achievable. It is vital to remember that something of value needs to be created for the potential advertisers, but more importantly for association members.  

The Challenge

In the 2018 update of the Association Communications Benchmarking Report by Association Adviser and Naylor Association Solutions, it was shown that 46% of associations surveyed “felt their ability to generate non-dues revenue (NDR) from their communications was a serious or significant challenge.” This is a 6% increase from the 2017 survey results where 40% of respondents indicated a significant challenge.

Communications should not be seen as an independent entity but as part of the associations offering to create maximum exposure for your sponsors.  

Developing Packages Sponsors Want

It is best not to introduce “different” advertising opportunities, but look at your current assets and create better packages for your sponsors.  It is less about introducing new advertising, and more about maximizing what you do offer.

increase exposure for sponsorships packages at association trade shows

We asked Pat Mersinger from the Red2Black Group about increasing the value of advertising packages.  

He went right for the trade show. He said when working with associations, they forget about the ramp up to show, and the post-show engagement. Offer a bell curve advertising package that will increase exposure on your website site, newsletter, and trade show schedule as the event gets closer.

Plus, after the event is over, maximize those sponsors in the post-show wrap-up, website, and newsletter. Instead of making it a one or two-day sponsorship, you can grow it to a 3-month sponsorship providing more exposure, ongoing lead generation, and additional advertising opportunities.  We did introduce any new products, but really maximized the products you are currently offering.


Website Maximization Sells Sponsorship Packages

maximizing content within an association's website and newsletter helps sell sponsorships

For your website and newsletter to have value, it needs to have content that is up-to-date and refreshed frequently. To persuade members to revisit an association site, the site needs to have new and interesting content posted daily.

For an association that is manually posting new content, this can be a huge undertaking. It is advisable in these cases to seek out an AI-based content curator. These curators use artificial intelligence algorithms to locate suitable content and also have the ability to customize content to align with the interests of association members.

A common practice for associations is to sell sponsorship inside the e-newsletter that is sent to its members. Newsletter sponsorships must be something that is of value to both the sponsor and the members receiving it. The sponsorship could be an ad targeting individual members with new job opportunities or educational offerings that further their industry knowledge. It could also be a posting for a new product or service where sponsors need to reach association members that are key decision makers. Since e-newsletters are sent to members on an ongoing basis, whether that’s weekly or monthly, they serve as a constantly renewed location where sponsor messages can be sold. This revenue channel is frequently overlooked, yet it is available every month of the year.

Like the web site example above, an e-newsletter is also a place where the importance of fresh, relevant content should not be underestimated.

Leveraging Outside Experts

selling sponsorships packages means leveraging outside experts

Associations are often under-resourced when it comes to managing marketing efforts such as email campaigns, website content and social media postings.

Since it takes additional resources to sell sponsorship packages, it is not surprising that the 2018 Association Communications Benchmarking Report indicated that advertising sales were the second most likely function to be outsourced.

This is primarily the case because the association sales team is focused on selling memberships or sponsorships for trade shows. They do not have time to sell advertising.

Organizations such as Association Revenue Partners (ARP) allow associations to outsource all their sponsorship sales to a group of experienced professionals. Professional sales teams like ARP are able to connect to organizations immediately and start selling. This means that an association’s staff can stay focused on members and shows, while the external sales team acts to drive additional revenue for the association.

Using a third-party sales team allows associations to tap into experts with a proven record of not only selling sponsorships but also in delivering ads that are visually stunning and conceptually interesting.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

don't leave money on the table by ignoring the possibilities of sponsorships

Sponsorship packages are a stream of non-dues revenue available to every association. Virtually every touch point with members provides at least one opportunity to sell a sponsorship placement. These opportunities are also an additional avenue by which to provide valuable third-party products or services to association members and to increase member engagement. Don’t leave money on the table by ignoring the possibilities of sponsorships.