Walk Like a Dinosaur – The Decline of Tradeshows

To walk around a trade show floor these days is to know what dinosaurs were thinking during their decline. Where is everybody?


It’s often sad to see the older grown men (yes, that is the demographic) behind the booths explaining why they still come.

  • “The face-to-face is still important”
  • “I get to meet the customer”
  • “I get to meet the press” (I can’t argue with that, as I am usually there to hear it)

Many are secretly networking. Who knows if they might be at a different booth next year… if that company comes back to the show.

That is a big if.

More and more of us, it seems, are shying away from trade shows. It’s been years since the heyday of big industry shows. Old timers will remember NDES in Chicago and A/E/C Systems. How about Autofact in Detroit and COMDEX in Las Vegas? All the CAD vendors used to have big booths at those shows.

These days, there’s not a single trade show that is a must-attend. SIGGRAPH1 is as close to a  last big industry trade and you can still see the latest in computer hardware, but CAD vendors, if they choose to participate in any show at all, it will be their own. The biggest CAD shows right now are annual user meetings. Autodesk University is the biggest with over 10,000 attendees.  SOLIDWORKS World can pull in 5,000. There there are several others…Siemens PLM Connection, PTC Live Global…

The decline of trade shows is a known phenomenon in the business. Reasons are chiefly the the availability of information on the Internet. When I went to my first trade show (early 1990’s), I could argue that the CAD were all conveniently in one place and I could evaluate them all. Now, the boss is likely to say, “Why don’t you find that on the Web?” He wants to keep you at your desk and save  $2K to $3K in travel costs — plus he doesn’t have to explain to his boss why you are not at your desk but in Las Vegas  — which unfortunately ends up being the site of many a trade show).

But that’s nothing compared to what companies spend in attending and exhibiting.

Next up: The Hidden Costs of Trade Shows


1. Even SIGGRAPH is suffering, see Jon Peddie – the Decline of SIGGRAPH, CAD Insider, Aug 9. 2013



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