Why are companies joining the trade show bandwagon? One of the major reasons for the continuing trade show popularity is the personal contact opportunity to observe innovations in business products and services. In an era of impersonal electronic communication, trade shows offer face-to-face meetings that are critical for companies to compete in an ever-changing marketplace.

The size of the trade show display industry is impressive, and it is growing.

According to the Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA), 51 million people attended trade shows last year in the United States. There were more than 13,000 trade shows in the nation with 1.2 million companies exhibiting. This is a testimony to the tremendous value of networking and being able to touch and demonstrate new products. Trade shows connect buyers to sellers and people to people in a way that virtual marketing can never achieve.

Here are five compelling reasons why trade show displays across the U.S. are successful:

1. Networking with the right people at the trade show. You get to see and be seen. You meet your clients and client prospects face-to-face and get instant feedback. This is certainly good news since there has been a dramatic business shift to online marketing, home offices, smaller field sales forces, and the depersonalization of the sales function. With e-commerce dominating the business process, cell phones, email communications, and Web commerce, there are fewer opportunities for face-to-face business development. The realization that relationships drive commerce has forced companies to view trade shows as a key opportunity for personal encounters. And, research shows that two or three days of dealing directly with decision-makers in a trade show exhibit environment can cut the cost and time of closing deals by as much as 50 percent.

2. Showcases the company’s new products and innovations. Trade shows draw massive attention to new products seen by the right people. At the trade show, your booth staff can help educate attendees on your company’s array of products and services as well as walking prospects through the decision-making process. People need to see and feel new products as this helps build their business relationships.

3. Expanding business by reaching the people who make purchasing decisions for their businesses at the trade show. Trade shows attract decision-makers, influence purchasing decisions, provide a point of contact for new customers, and make lasting impressions.

4. Brand exposure and identity enhancement in a big trade show arena environment. Exhibitors think of trade show displays as the grand launch of their most valued new product or business service. An excellent opportunity to give customer prospects your best most memorable and consistent look to increase brand exposure.

5. Great place to learn about the new trends in your industry. You can bet that you will learn what the ‘buzz’ is in your own industry and watch what attracts prospects’ interest. E.g., in the latest fancy food industry’s winter trade show the trend is toward organic and natural products.

The trade show exhibit industry continues to grow and the added value of this personal prospecting environment suggests continued growth for 2006 and beyond.