Trade show

Stands and crowd during MWC Barcelona 2019
Stands during MWC Barcelona 2019, a trade show for the mobile communications industry in Barcelona, Spain

A trade show, also known as trade fair, trade exhibition, or trade exposition, is an exhibition organized so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services, meet with industry partners and customers, study activities of rivals, and examine recent market trends and opportunities.

Trade shows are crucial for businesses, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts in diverse industries. These dynamic gatherings provide valuable networking opportunities, learning experiences, and avenues for business expansion. Whether you're attending for the first time or are a seasoned exhibitor, mastering the art of navigating these events can greatly enhance your trade fair journey.

In contrast to consumer shows, only some trade shows are open to the public, while others can only be attended by company representatives (members of the trade, e.g. professionals) and members of the press, therefore trade shows are classified as either "public" or "trade only". A few shows are hybrids of the two; one example is the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is trade only for its first three days and open to the general public on its final two days. They are held on a continuing basis in virtually all markets and normally attract companies from around the globe. For example, in the U.S., there are currently over 10,000 trade shows held every year, and several online directories have been established to help organizers, attendees, and marketers identify appropriate events.


Modern trade shows follow in the tradition of trade fairs established in late medieval Europe such as the Champagne fairs or the Skåne Market, in the era of merchant capitalism. In this era, produce and craft producers visited towns for trading fairs, to sell and showcase products. These markets were held annually or on several specific days a year, usually at geographically particularly favorable locations and in conjunction with an religious festival in order to benefit from the rush of the public. The tradition of fairs taking place in spring and autumn has been preserved in some cases until today. From the late eighteenth century, industrial exhibitions in Europe and North America became more common reflecting the technological dynamism of the Industrial Revolution.

In the late 19th century, the concept of annual industry-wide trade shows gained traction, spreading from European manufacturing centers to North America. By the 20th century, specialized companies came into existence simply to manage the trade-show industry, and permanent trade show grounds or convention centres were established as venues that featured a rotating calendar of trade shows.

In the 21st century, with the rapid industrialization of Asia, trade shows and exhibitions are now commonplace throughout the Asian continent, with China dominating the exhibitions industry in Asia, accounting for more than 55 per cent of all space sold in the region in 2011.


IBM stand during CeBIT 2010 at the Hanover Fairground, the largest exhibition ground in the world, in Hanover, Germany
A small trade show in Croatia, with the exhibition booth of the Croatian Chamber of Economy

Trade shows play important roles in marketing as well as business networking in market sectors that use them. People will seek to meet people and companies at their own level in the supply chain, as well as potential suppliers and potential buyers.

Generally there will be a central trade show floor with booths where people exhibit their goods or services, and throughout the day there will be seminars for continuing education on matters relevant to the industry, like best practices, trends, and regulation. There will also be some shared meals with keynote speakers, and social events in the evenings. Booths range from simple tables to elaborate constructions.

Trade shows often involve a considerable investment in time and money by participating companies. The planning includes arranging meetings with other attendees beforehand and resources to follow up on opportunities that are created at the show. Costs include space rental, booth design and construction of trade show displays, telecommunications, travel, accommodations, and promotional literature and items to give to attendees.

In addition, costs are incurred at the show for services such as electrical, booth cleaning, internet services, and drayage (also known as material handling). This local spending on logistics leads cities to promote trade shows as a means of local economic development, as well as providing opportunities for local businesses to grow, and attract new businesses to come.

The large format work that can be done at international trade shows

List of major venues

# Ground City Indoor floor area Outdoor floor area
1 Hanover Fairground Hanover 496,000 m2 (5,340,000 sq ft) 58,070 m2 (625,100 sq ft)
2 World Market Center Las Vegas Las Vegas 460,000 m2 (5,000,000 sq ft)
3 Messe Frankfurt Frankfurt 366,600 m2 (3,946,000 sq ft) 96,000 m2 (1,030,000 sq ft)
4 Fira de Barcelona Barcelona 365,000 m2 (3,930,000 sq ft) 50,000 m2 (540,000 sq ft)
5 Fiera Milano Milan 345,000 m2 (3,710,000 sq ft) 60,000 m2 (650,000 sq ft)
6 Canton Fair Complex Guangzhou 338,000 m2 (3,640,000 sq ft) 43,600 m2 (469,000 sq ft)
7 Las Vegas Convention Center Winchester, Nevada (Las Vegas) 297,000 m2 (3,200,000 sq ft)
8 Koelnmesse Cologne 284,000 m2 (3,060,000 sq ft) 100,000 m2 (1,100,000 sq ft)
9 Messe Düsseldorf Düsseldorf 262,740 m2 (2,828,100 sq ft) 43,000 m2 (460,000 sq ft)
10 McCormick Place Chicago 248,000 m2 (2,670,000 sq ft)
11 Parc des Expositions de Villepinte Paris 246,300 m2 (2,651,000 sq ft)
12 Paris expo Porte de Versailles Paris 227,000 m2 (2,440,000 sq ft)
13 Feria de Madrid IFEMA Madrid 200,000 m2 (2,200,000 sq ft)
14 National Exhibition Centre Solihull, UK 186,000 m2 (2,000,000 sq ft) 100,000 m2 (1,100,000 sq ft)
15 Messe München Munich 180,000 m2 (1,900,000 sq ft) 425,000 m2 (4,570,000 sq ft)
16 Messe Nürnberg Nuremberg 180,000 m2 (1,900,000 sq ft) 50,000 m2 (540,000 sq ft)
17 Messe Berlin Berlin 160,000 m2 (1,700,000 sq ft) 390,000 m2 (4,200,000 sq ft)

List of major trade shows

Fairs with a published attendance of more than 50,000
Title Description Dates Location Visitors
AgQuip Agriculture August 22–24, 2017 Gunnedah, New South Wales,  Australia 100,000 approximately in 2005
ANUGA Food and beverage October 7–11, 2017 Koelnmesse,  Germany 165,000 approximately in 2017
Arab Health Healthcare January 24, 2022 - January 27, 2022 Dubai World Trade Centre,  United Arab Emirates 58,028 in 2022
Automechanika Automotive aftermarket September 13–17, 2016 Messe Frankfurt,  Germany 136,000
BAUMA Construction April 8–17, 2019 Munich,  Germany 620,000 in 2019
Bangladesh Livestock Exhibition Livestock, animal, agriculture, agricultural machinery Mid-February Dhaka,  Bangladesh
Beef Australia Beef May (triennially) Rockhampton,  Australia 90,000 in 2015
Berlin Music Week Music September 3–7, 2014 Berlin,  Germany 70,000 in 2012
Bologna Motor Show Auto show December 3–11, 2016 Bologna,  Italy 450,000 in 2013
boot Düsseldorf Boats January 21–29, 2017 Messe Düsseldorf,  Germany 267,379 in 2008
Buenos Aires International Book Fair Books April 27 – May 15, 2017 Buenos Aires,  Argentina 1,240,000 in 2008
Cairo International Book Fair Books January 27, 2017 - February 10, 2017 Cairo,  Egypt 2,000,000 in 2007
Canton Fair Consumer and industry products Spring session: April 15–19 (Phase 1); April 23–27 (Phase 2); May 1–5 (Phase 3). (111th Session)

Autumn session: October 15–19 (Phase 1); October 23–27 (Phase 2); October 31- November 4 (Phase 3).

Guangzhou,  China 192,013 in Spring Session 2008
CeBIT Information and communication technology March 20–24 Hanover,  Germany 480,000 in 2007
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Consumer electronics Jan 7 – Jan 10, Every Year Las Vegas Convention Center,  United States
Comic Market Comics August 11–13, 2017 Tokyo,  Japan 550,000 in Summer Session 2008
COMPUTEX Taipei Computer show May 30, 2017 – June 3, 2017 Taipei,  Taiwan 106,517 in 2008
CONEXPO-CON/AGG Construction March 7–11, 2017 Las Vegas Convention Center,  Taiwan 145,000 approximately in 2008
Dhaka International Trade Fair Consumer products January 1 - January 31, Every Year Bangabandhu Exhibition Center, Dhaka,  Bangladesh Hundreds of Thousands
Drupa Printing equipment May 31 – June 10, 2016 Messe Düsseldorf,  Germany 393,654 in 2004 from 127 countries
Dubai Food Festival (DFF) Foods May 2 - May 15 Dubai Festival City,  United Arab Emirates
Dubai Airshow Aerospace Biennial Dubai World Central,  United Arab Emirates
Ekushey Book Fair Books February 1 - February 28, Every Year Bangla Academy, Ramna, Dhaka,  Bangladesh 70,000
E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) Video games June 13–15, 2017 Los Angeles, California,  United States 68,400 (2017)
EICMA Motorcycles November 10–13, 2016 Fiera Milano,  Italy 504,999 in 2008
Euroflora Flower show April/May once time every 5 years Genoa,  Italy 730,000 in 1986
EuroShop Retailing March 5–09, 2017 Messe Düsseldorf,  Germany 104,766 in 2008
Farnborough Air Show Aerospace 16–22 July 2018 Farnborough Airport, Hampshire,  United Kingdom 209,000 (2012)
Fieracavalli Horse show November 10–13, 2016 Verona,  Italy 125,975 in 2008
Fiera internazionale del libro Books May 18–22, 2017 Turin,  Italy 300,000 in 2007[citation needed]
Frankfurt Book Fair Books October 11–15, 2017 Messe Frankfurt,  Germany 280,194 in 2011
Games Convention Video games ended 2008 Leipzig,  Germany 203,000 in 2008
Gamescom Video games August 21–25, 2018 Koelnmesse,  Germany 350,000 in 2017
Genoa International Boat Show Boats September 21–26, 2017 Genoa,  Italy 236,322 in 2008
GITEX Consumer electronics March 29, 2007 – April 1, 2017 Dubai,  United Arab Emirates 146,000 in 2016
Hannover Messe Industry, technology April 24–28, 2017 Hanover,  Germany 193,222 in 2008
High Point Market Furniture April and October High Point, North Carolina,  United States 70,000-80,000
IFA Consumer electronics and home appliances September 1–6, 2017 Berlin,  Germany 240,000 in 2016
IITF (India International Trade Fair) Consumer products Mid-November Delhi,  India
imm Cologne Furniture January 15–21, 2018 Koelnmesse,  Germany 106,677 in 2008
InnoTrans Rail Transport Technology September 22–25, 2020 Messe Berlin,  Germany 106,612 in 2010
Intermot Motorcycles October 3–7, 2018 Koelnmesse,  Germany 203,000 in 2012
International CES Consumer electronics January 9–12, 2018 Las Vegas Convention Center, Nevada,  United States 177,000+ in 2016
Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung Cars September 14–29, 2017 Messe Frankfurt,  Germany 931,700 in 2015
IGW Berlin Sustainable agriculture January 20–29, 2017 Messe Berlin,  Germany 424,502 in 2008
ITB Berlin tourism March 10–12, 2017 Messe Berlin,  Germany 149,776 in 2008
International Technical Fair machine engineering, automobiles, transport, information technologies, software, electronics, electrical engineering, construction, chemistry, power engineering, ecology September 25–30, 2017 Plovdiv,  Bulgaria 141,000 in 2006[citation needed]
Jakarta Fair Retail (Cars and motorcycles, electronics, sports equipment, fashion accessories and garments, to household utilities, furniture, food, handcrafts, herbs and medicine, cosmetics, banking services and many others) May 22–30, 2019 Jakarta,  Indonesia
Kolkata International Book Fair Books Late January - Early February Kolkata,  India 2,000,000 in 2012 - largest book fair in the world
Light + Building Architectural lighting design March 18–23, 2018 Messe Frankfurt,  Germany 167,084 in 2008
Mass-Trans Innovation Japan Rail Transport Technology November 27–29, 2019 Makuhari Messe, Tokyo,  Japan
MEDICA Trade Fair Medical technology November 13–16, 2017 Messe Düsseldorf,  Germany 136,871 in 2008
Mobile World Congress mobile telephony, Communications February 25, 2019 – February 28, 2019 Barcelona,  Spain 107,000 in 2018
SIAL Paris Food industry October 15, 2022 - October 18, 2022 Paris,  France 310,000 in 2018
Mondial de l'Automobile Auto show September 29, 2016 – October 16, 2016 Paris,  France 1,400,000 in 2006
NAB Show Broadcasting April 22–27, 2017 Las Vegas Convention Center, Nevada,  United States 93,000+ in 2013
The NAMM Show Music January 16–19, 2020 Anaheim, California,  United States 115,888
NAIAS Cars January 14–21, 2018 Detroit, Michigan,  United States 800,000 in 2018
National Agricultural Fieldays Agriculture 4 days in mid June Hamilton,  New Zealand 125,878 in 2007
Novi Sad Fair Agriculture Middle of May Novi Sad,  Serbia 600,000[citation needed]
Nuremberg International Toy Fair Toys, Games February 1–6, 2017 Nuremberg,  Germany 80,000 in 2011
Paris International Agricultural Show Agricultural show February 25, 2017 - March 5, 2017 Paris,  France 619,000 in 2017
Paris Air Show - SIAE Aerospace June 19–25, 2017 Paris,  France 322,000 in 2017
Pitha Utsob Cake and food January First week Dhaka,  Bangladesh
Photokina Photography May 27–30, 2020 Koelnmesse,  Germany 180,000 in 2018
Salone del Mobile (International Furniture Fair) Furniture March 2007 FieraMilano,  Italy 270,000 in 2007
SEMA Show Automobile aftermarket First week of November Las Vegas, Nevada,  United States 125,000 in 2014
SHOT Show Firearms January 22–25, 2019 Sands Expo, Las Vegas, Nevada,  United States 60,000+ in 2018
SIMA Real estate May 25–28, 2017 Madrid,  Spain 122,760 in 2008
SIMO TCI Consumer electronics October 18–20, 2017 Madrid,  Spain 300,000 approximately
Sydney Royal Easter Show Agriculture 14 days over Easter Sydney,  Australia 900,000 in 2007
Tehran International Book Fair Books May 3–13, 2017 Tehran,  Iran 2,000,000 approximately in 2010[citation needed]
The Big 5 Construction November 26–29, 2017 (annual) Dubai,  UAE 78,579 participants in 2016
Thessaloniki International Fair General Annually Thessaloniki,  Greece 250,000 in 2011
Tokyo Motor Show Auto shows October 27, 2017 - November 5, 2017 Tokyo,  Japan 1,512,100 in 2005[citation needed]
Tokyo Game Show Video games September 21–24, 2017 Tokyo,  Japan 271,224 in 2016
Trade Expo Indonesia Export October 24–28, 2018 BSD City,  Indonesia 28,000
World Ag Expo Agriculture Annually Tulare, California,  United States Approx. 100,000 annually
World Dairy Expo Dairy industry October 3-03, 2017 Alliant Energy Center, 2015 at Madison, Wisconsin,  United States 75,000

See also

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