re trade shows really worth the investment? Do they attract real buyers? Does exhibiting have a positive influence on purchasing decisions? According to Exhibit Surveys Inc., the answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes.” Each year, the market-research firm polls attendees from more than 60 trade shows to determine the effectiveness of exhibit marketing and identify industry trends.

The Red Bank, NJ-based company’s 2007 Trade Show Trends report includes valuable information about exhibit performance, show-floor traffic, exhibit effectiveness, and trade show attendees — their buying power, purchase plans, and attendance habits — all broken down into four industry sectors: High Tech, Retail, Medical, and Manufacturing/Industrial.

From a statistical standpoint, 2007 was similar to 2006. Aside from slight increases and decreases in various metrics, most indicators remained on par with the previous year’s results, including total buying plans and net buying influence, which both indicate that trade shows continue to attract qualified buyers who directly influence their organizations’ purchase of goods and services. Bottom line, 2007 was another good year for the trade show industry.

The downside is exhibitors are paying more to attract each attendee, as the average cost per attendee that visits an exhibitor’s booth increased 19 percent since 2006 — up 26 percent from five years ago in 2003. Those results underscore the reality that costs are increasing, thanks to everything from rising booth-space rates to fuel surcharges.

On a positive note, the survey determined that 34 percent of attendees, on average, are first-timers to any given show. That translates into a vital show-floor marketplace with new buyers coming into the mix, preventing shows from becoming stale events with the same buyers from the same companies attending the same shows year after year. Furthermore, a record 39 percent of attendees reported that their purchase intentions were more favorable after visiting companies’ exhibits on the trade show floor. That indicates that not only are trade shows worth the investment, but exhibitors are getting even better at maximizing the opportunities generated by that investment.

Finally, the report examines each surveyed show’s individual results for the following metrics: net buying influence, total buying plans, traffic density, and the number of hours attendees spent visiting exhibits on the show floor. The chart on page 27 reports those numbers for the ten top-ranked shows in each of the aforementioned categories.

The following information represents some of the highlights from this year’s report. For a complete list of the shows surveyed, see this document.

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