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!

5 Means of Increasing Non-Dues Revenue Your Association Should Be Utilizing

increasing your association's non-dues revenue should be as easy as this guided flowchart

Non-Dues Revenue: A Business Model for Success

Man cannot survive on bread alone. Likewise, an association cannot survive on revenues obtained solely from membership dues.

If you want to grow your association, you need to develop multiple avenues for financial growth from non-dues revenue sources.

What would your association do if your membership growth slowed? Would you be able to survive? If you can create these additional non-dues revenue sources to grow your association’s finances, you will be in a privileged position where you will not even bat an eyelash.

So what are some additional ways to see financial growth in your association through non-dues revenue?

Offer Your Members Something They Don’t Already Have

What are some sources of non-dues revenue that your current members would pay for?

You already know that you have the attention of your members. If they’re willing to pay your membership dues, it means you’re doing something right. So why not utilize this attention that you already have?

Upselling is a sales technique that many people are familiar with. It is the simple act of utilizing the attention that your audience is already giving you to offer them something more in exchange for an additional fee.

You can do the same for your association members. Offer some exclusive content, benefits, or services for your members who choose to engage with this higher status. These can all be additional sources of non-dues revenue that they want and/or need.

For your association members, a higher status can mean a greater feeling of inclusivity with your association. This creates not only a feeling of inclusion for these members, but a feeling like their inclusion really means something beyond the general association membership.

Utilize Advertising Sales for a Non-Dues Revenue Stream

Advertising is another really healthy for of non-dues revenue for your association.

Most associations are already utilizing literature such as newsletters and automated emails for their members. These associations provide information to many eyes all over the world, and this is a great opportunity to increase non-dues revenues through advertising placements. While associations are serving their members through periodic informational avenues, they can also work on increasing non-dues revenue through strategic advertising placements within the content.

Offer advertising space, like those our friends at Association Revenue Partners provide, through different distribution channels such as newsletters, on your website, and through buyers’ guides as a source of non-dues revenue. There are plenty of businesses and services that would love to present themselves to your association members as having aligning interests and mentalities. To keep everything inline with your association’s values, make sure that these advertisements come from a company or service that you and your members align with in terms of ideology.

At its core, associations are created to bring like-minded professionals together. These folks work together to serve a greater purpose in the name of the association, and also within their individual professional lives. So the question isn’t why should you offer outside entities a chance – it’s why wouldn’t you? Everyone wins! Now is the time to focus on your members’ values, interests, and needs.

What companies align with your association’s values and interests? What services are something your members need? Give them a trusted source to go to, and in turn, you will also enhance your association’s reputation as a truly valuable source. Sponsorship opportunities are everywhere, and it’s a great way to make some additional non-dues revenue for your association.

Non-Dues Revenue Through Branded Merchandise

Merchandising is perhaps the most obvious way of creating non-dues revenue streams for your association. If your association is something your members are proud to be a part of, you can bet that they would be proud to sport some branded merchandising too. This could be as simple as a hat or a sweatshirt (the cold months are still here).

Offering branded association merchandise is a way to encourage your members to feel that same sense of belonging we discussed earlier (as well as in our blog about AI & Personalized Content). And it also works as free advertising for your association. Place a merchandise order for clothing or other products that have your logo, name, and contact information on them, but also something that generates engagement.

Create unique merchandise that will intrigue people on the street enough to ask your members, “What is ________?” Lay the these conversations and you will be converting people into members before you even meet them.

Engage the Active Audience on Social Media

Your association members are on social media so why not engage with them there for some free advertising of non-dues revenue programs

Your association probably has more events and programs than any individual member is able to remember. So utilize your captive audience of social media followers. You want to engage with your members in this way already, so use it to create some excitement around additional sources of non-dues revenue.

Let members know what you have going on, but also use it as free advertising. If you’re offering branded merchandise, this is a great way to get the word out. Engage people with the visual capabilities of Facebook or Instagram. Show off those stylish hats or sweatshirts. Again, create a conversation.

Make people, especially non-members, want to engage with your social media posts. Make them want to ask questions about your merchandise, your events that are open to members and non-members alike, and other impressive things your association is participating in. Make them want it. Non-dues revenue generation like this, if done correctly, will eventually translate into more dues-based revenue as well. It’s a win-win.

Make a Splash at Trade Shows

Your association should definitely plant the seeds of both membership revenue and non-dues revenue at trade shows.

Here’s the big one! Your trade shows are your direct line to the people of the world. This is where all of the things we have discussed come together to make the perfect storm of total revenue generation.

Showcase the additional services, content, and events your association is offering. Show off your branded merchandise. It might even be wise to give it away for free at these trade shows in order to pull in more prospective members.

Get your booth sponsored! Decrease your overhead costs, and show that your association aligns with companies or services that line up with the values and concerns of your members, (and people you hope will become members).

Also, encourage people to follow your social media accounts by making a game or contest of it. For example, create a photo booth where folks can take pictures while wearing your branded merchandise. This increases your free advertising, but also makes people want to check out your social media presence. Add a hashtag that is customized for your association and the trade show you are attending. While they’re taking a look at that stylish photo of themselves, they will also see all of these other services and products you offer, potentially generating even more non-dues revenue down the line.

The Never Ending Source of Non-Dues Revenue

Non-dues revenue can really drive your organization and keep you from depending on membership dues.

Your ability to generate financial growth outside of membership dues is only limited by your imagination. Everyone has a certain amount of disposable income. Give your members a reason to believe that your association has something worth putting this disposable income towards outside of their membership fees.

Running an association is a unique venue of connection to the world. Make use of this unique connection to provide your members with even more benefits than they thought possible. This is what will ultimately keep your association growing consistently year after year.


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.


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!