The Importance of Trade Shows

With the news out this week that Travel Week will be back for its fifth annual installment, I thought it might be time to remind travel agents working at home of the importance of trade shows, particularly to their segment of the business. While many agents working at home may feel that they don’t have the time or simply don’t see the benefits of attending such shows, there is plenty of support to the contrary.

According to surveys from leading business publications and organizations, participation in trade shows and other in-person events is critical for producing profits, maintaining clients and developing new business.

Forbes, for instance, surveyed 750 business executives and found they “overwhelmingly agree that face-to-face meetings are not just preferable but necessary for building deeper, more profitable bonds with clients and business partners and maintaining productive relationships with co-workers.” An overwhelming 84 percent prefer in-person meetings to technology-enabled meetings, noting they are better for persuasion, leadership, engagement, accountability and decision-making. The magazine concluded that technology cannot substitute for in-person meetings when it comes to closing important business deals.

An article in the Wall Street Journal notes that especially during tough economic times, “participating in trade shows is one of the smartest things a business owner can do.”  According to the newspaper, trade shows provide critical exposure to potential buyers and are essential for learning about unfamiliar markets, building personal relationships and getting an up-close look at the competition.

And in “The Oxford Economics Study: The Return on Investment Business Travel,” 700 corporate executives and 500 business travelers surveyed estimate that 28 percent of current business would be lost without in-person meetings. Over half also stated that 5 to 20 percent of their company’s new customers were the result of trade show participation.

And for agents working at home, it’s important to get out there and meet suppliers that you otherwise might not see. Without a brick-and-mortar office, you have to be more proactive in maintaining your connections to the industry.

Of course, you have to be particular about which shows to attend and how best to capitalize on them. Still, in an economy mired in recession, it may be time to go back to business the old-fashioned way: face to face.