The meta-convention: a trade show for trade shows

Attendees visit the Fitbit booth at the 2014 International CES at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 10 and is expected to feature 3,200 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 150,000 attendees. 

These days, it seems that every industry has a trade show.  The American Feed Industry Association met in Las Vegas last week. So did the American Membrane Technology Association.

Conferences are a place to meet face to face, a place to make sales. So it stands to reason there is a trade show for trade shows. A convention convention. “It’s a trade show for trade show people,” says John Pavek, who helps run the Exhibitor 2014 convention. “We essentially train corporate America on how to more effectively participate in trade shows and events.”

There will be booths about booths. Signage about signage. T-shirt giveaways advertising t-shirt giveaways.

It’s very meta.

Six thousand people attended last year’s Exhibitor convention. 

It turns out all the booths and pens and signs and t-shirts that go into making conventions are big business.

“We’re looking at revenue of about $13.6 billion in 2014,” said Stephen Morea, an analyst at IBIS World.

Add up all the conferences, trade shows and consumer shows, said Morea, there are over a million of them in the U.S. every year.  That money goes to everything from booth fees, to travel, to shipping, to equipment rental. Some shows generate cash from the public.

In Las Vegas, where this year’s Exhibitor convention is taking place, tradeshows and meetings are a big part of the economy.

“We’re talking about over 50,000 jobs,” said Jeremy Aguero from the research firm Applied Analysis, “billions of dollars in economic activity, and we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and salaries that are paid.”

He says 40 million people make the trip to Las Vegas every year, and 15 percent of those come for conventions and meetings. 

With all that on the line, you might think the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority would have a booth at this week’s trade show, trade show.

Nope.

Apparently, the Las Vegas strip is its own, giant, exhibit space.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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