How to Search for Targeted Trade Shows & Optimize Your Budget $

Searching for targeted trade shows
You have to know who your key prospects are and what their needs are to find the right trade shows for your business.

With the economy spiraling downwards and every budget, including the trade show budget shrinking, it's more important than ever to find the right targeted shows to exhibit at. There are many options to find trade shows and we'll discuss the best ways to find the shows that will improve your ROI. I realize I keep harping on this point in almost every column I write, but there's really nothing more important. Be sure to fully understand who your key prospects are and what their needs are. Spend any time you need to really, and I mean really, nail this. The more detail, the better. In the end, this preparation will save you considerable time during your search for a show that fits your needs!

Ask Yourself These Questions

Start your trade show search by first determining what the purpose of your exhibiting is: What you are trying

to achieve? Make sure you have well-considered answers to the following questions:

  • Which initial goal or goals are most important to you? Examples are: New business (leads), maintaining business relationships, creating industry exposure, meeting media contacts, etc.
  • What key industries should you exhibit in?
  • What show types should you exhibit in?
  • Who are the key prospects in each industry?
  • Which shows are your competitors exhibiting at?

Once you answer these questions, you are ready to start searching for the most targeted shows that will deliver the best results. Here are a couple of search options I use when researching shows for my clients:

Trade Show Search Engines

The various trade show search engine sites are the trade show equivalent to traditional search engine sites
such as Google. Each site will vary in the search options offered, but most provide you with the ability to define specific details, such as industry, month, city, state, country, etc., or give you the ability to search for information on a specific show. Here are 3 of the popular trade show search engine sites: Trade Show News Network, EventsEye, and The Tradeshow Calendar.

Traditional Search Engines

Since all trade show search engines rely on show producers adding their shows or staff researching specific show opportunities, you'll find that results and information vary considerably depending on the site and, of course, none of those sites will cover all shows that are produced.

Standard search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! are good tools to supplement your show search efforts. Enter “Trade Show” and keywords for the industry you want to exhibit in, plus a city and state. The results will usually list multiple pages with show opportunities you may have otherwise missed. Play a little with keyword search variations for best results.

Industry Publications

Industry publications are also a good resource for finding shows. Many will list industry-wide trade shows or at least the shows they produce themselves. Visit the sites of large media corporations that publish industry publications. They often produce several industry shows per year. Editorial calendars for large media corporations will commonly list shows as well. And, of course, take advantage of the show list Exhibit City News publishes monthly.

Industry Associations

Industry associations tend to organize at least one annual National or International show and frequently also other regional events. Listings can be found on their websites' event pages. You can also find regional show listings by visiting event pages on the association’s regional chapter sites. Many industry associations also have subgroups that have their own websites, so don’t just limit your search to the umbrella organization.

Convention Centers and Visitors Bureaus

Listings of shows within particular cities can usually be found on websites of convention centers and visitor bureaus. Besides the trade show calendars, you benefit from additional resources available on these sites, particularly once you have selected a show. You'll find practical information about the show facility and the city’s attractions, including great places to take prospects and current customers to dinner or hold small events.

Newswire Websites

A few newswire companies offer trade show listings on their website. A good example of a well-known company
with a strong focus on trade shows is Business Wire. When you visit their website, click on trade shows and events, where you'll find show details listed by month or sorted by industry.

Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce commonly offer tabletop expos for their members to exhibit at. If you belong to a Chamber, the show information will typically be announced at Chamber events, through announcements and flyers, in monthly newsletters and on their website. Remember though that most show attendees are other Chamber members not exhibiting, surrounding community and local businesses. Occasionally several local chambers collaborate to organize somewhat more regional events.


Here's a search method often overlooked: Check out the websites of your competitors. Often they list the shows they'll be exhibiting at. Why not pop up at those shows and get your share of the action?

OK, now it’s time for your homework!


  • Prepare a master list of potential shows to exhibit at by using the search options in this month’s lesson; organize the show details in a spreadsheet.
  • Review the shows in the spreadsheet and determine which shows are the most targeted.
  • Keep the master list of shows and create a new spreadsheet for the shows you feel are the most targeted.

Note: By keeping the master list, you can refer to it next time you are searching for shows. You may find some of the shows fit your business needs at that time.

Linda Musgrove
Linda Musgrove is the founder and president of TradeShow Teacher, a full-service trade show training and management firm. Through her result-driven formula, she specializes in teaching companies to significantly improve trade show results through strategic, customized trade show management and training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Training options include phone consulting, webinars, seminars and one-on-one in person coaching.


  1. This is an excellent article about trade show.
    Of course, we know very well that a trade show is where companies can exhibit and showcase their products. Now, the role of event planners comes in where they have to organize this event and address to the needs of the company who opt to do the trade show. It is their task to look for the most appropriate venue to accommodate participating companies who will make considerable investments.


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