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May 14
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Trade Show, Conference or Expo: What’s the Difference?

There are various types of business meetings both big and small. It is not unusual to hear the terms trade show, conference or expo used to refer to any corporate gathering, but there is a difference between each type of event.

Trade Show

A trade show is more of an exhibition than a meeting. Trade shows are where businesses in a particular trade or industry gather to promote products or services. A trade show can bring in thousands of companies and attendees and can last for days. Generally you could think of trade shows as showcases for the latest and greatest innovations in a given industry.
Trade shows are generally not open to the public, but the attendees are business professionals and corporate decision makers. By exhibiting at trade shows your product or service will be right beside your competitor and right in front of potential industry buyers. A large percentage of trade show attendees have corporate buying authority, so it is important to bring your best informational material and awesome demonstration skills.


A conference is a bit more formal than a trade show. At a trade show there is informal conversation while walking around the exhibit floor, but a conference is more of a sit down meeting focused on speakers and note taking.
It is not unusual to have a networking time scheduled at the end of the day, but the main focus of a conference is on issues or developments in a particular profession. There may be a series of speakers as well as break out sessions. Be prepared to take notes during the conference, so you can share the ideas you learned with co-workers. Many conference attendees feel a renewed excitement about their position and bring that sense of purpose back to the office.
A conference can be large or small, last one day or several, but is always a great way to gather leaders in an industry to address current trends or issues influencing a particular business sector.


An expo is a whole different genre when compared to a trade show or conference. The biggest difference is that an expo is open to the public. Expos are large, a great way to meet all kinds of people and promote your product. The booths at an expo are set up to showcase a product by demonstrations and hands-on displays.
It is common to have a few speakers at an expo. Often there will be series of presentations in a separate area. One of the favorite topics for expo speakers is what the future holds for a particular field or product.

All types of industry events can be worth attending whether to help with professional development or business networking. Events can be large or small, private or public or single or multi day, but all will allow you to learn from your peers and gain information.

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