At the beginning of 2009 we decided that by summer we would be ready to exhibit at various conferences throughout the US. We focused on internet/technology marketing conferences where we expected to meet a great deal of savvy marketing professionals and sales managers. We considered the shows we felt would yield the greatest return on a limited budget. Because such research takes a great deal of time and discussion with conference reps, I’d like to share the rundown of events we highly considered to help you decide your schedule.
1. Internet Retailer, June 15-18, 2009, Boston. We elected not to exhibit at this event due to lack of time and the fact that it was sold out – but it will likely be on the schedule next year. I’ve exhibited at this show before in Chicago with a previous employer and was fairly impressed overall. I felt the attendees were tech savvy, truly looking for new solutions, and generally in a managerial/decision-making role. (I also heard great things about the speakers but cannot comment on that myself.) With 350 exhibitors and 5,000 attendees you are looking at a ratio of 7:100… which is fairly good. The show floor had steady traffic on the first day but died down significantly the following days. Location is also everything at this conference; if you are in the back or on the side, you will be less visited. One more tip: do not put ANYTHING away before the end of the show or you will get in trouble with the conference organizer… there is a story here and feel free to send me a message if you’d like to hear it!
2. Ad:Tech, September 1-2, 2009, Chicago. Ad:Tech Chicago is generally considered the red-headed step child of Ad:Techs. My husband attended a few years ago and was not as pleased with the overall attendance and content of that show compared to San Francisco and, more recently, New York. So, I was hesitant to consider exhibiting at this show… but after speaking with the Ad:Tech team, I’m confident this is going to be a great event for us. With a few thousand attendees and 60 exhibitors, this show is unique because the vast majority of attendees don’t go to any of the other Ad:Techs. I’ve found in the past that Ad:Tech attendees have their hands on the latest in marketing tactics and tools, and they are very well connected. I’ve seen a lot of companies use Ad:Tech San Francisco or New York as their “coming out” party… but I’m not sure shows that large should be your first appearance. Ad:Tech Chicago will be a great way for us as a team to become accustomed to our trade show strategy, generate new leads, and learn from our mistakes for the upcoming New York show. We’ve secured booth #4… please stop by if you are in the neighborhood!
3. Marketing Sherpa B2B Demand Generation Summit, October 5-6, 2009, Boston. This is another show that we will not be exhibiting at but will heavily consider for next year. This is a smaller, highly focused show on B2B demand generation. The attendees are marketing managers and above with several representing SMBs. With 20 exhibitors and 200 attendees, your ratio for exhibiting at this show of 1:10 is fairly low – but it’s the numerous extra activities (happy hours, meals, etc.) where you continue to see the same people that really make events like this work. There are a few draw backs to smaller shows, however. First, you are generally staring face-to-face with your competitors in close proximity for 2 days straight… which can be a bit unnerving. Second, these shows are generally more expensive than the others ($1200 or move above larger show prices). Third, all the attendees go to the sessions, so there is next to no traffic at your booth during those times…leaving you to sit there and continue to gaze at your competitors.
4. DMA Expo, October 18-20, 2009, San Diego. I was impressed at the sheer volume of this conference in terms of exhibitors and attendees. The floor plan is so big I can’t even view the entire document on one screen. We were a bit late signing up so our booth is near the back, but they have set up an Online Marketing Solutions Pavilion which will be perfect for us. I’m interested to see what kind of crowd this show draws as I expect it will be quite varied. I’m sure there will be some old school direct marketers who only use direct mail or infomercials. I’m sure there will also be a great deal of techie folks who only sell online. No matter what, I highly expect we’ll get to the right people. Plus, Jay Leno and Martha Stuart will be there – how can you go wrong? Check us out at booth #2946!
5. eMarketing Conference, October 28-29, 2009, Atlanta. This is also a much smaller show (175-250 senior level marketers) and one I would consider truly a conference rather than an expo. It’s much more about the sessions, meetings, and presentations than an exhibit hall – in fact, there is not a showroom, only tables set up throughout the area. As a conference, I’ve heard great things from attendees in terms of value. I would recommend sponsoring/exhibiting at this show if you already plan on attending – think of it as an added benefit to maximize attendance as it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other shows. If you are looking for pure exhibitor space, this is not the place for you.
6. Ad:Tech, November 4-5, 2009, New York. While Ad:Tech San Francisco has generally been the belle of the ball with huge attendance and a great venue, Ad:Tech New York has really been coming of age in recent years. This year’s attendance is expected to be the same if not greater than San Fran, with the same crowd of on-fire top-notch marketing talent. This will be the biggest show we exhibit at this year and frankly, I can’t wait. I’ve found Ad:Tech to be the most innovative, exciting, and wild shows I’ve ever been too… and that is saying a lot! Drop by booth #1247 and give us a holler!
Other advice on great marketing conferences? Please comment below!