Trade shows are a big business, generating nearly $13 billion in 2016 and expected to grow year-by-year for the next three years. These trade shows are where you learn about industry trends, meet and network with companies of all sizes, and may just discover the next big thing.
There are trade shows for every industry, and they happen throughout the year. I’ve attended these shows as media in a variety of industries. It’s how I understand what’s happening in such a wide variety of sectors. Some people sit online and perform research all day, but I immerse myself in the culture of each industry.
Here are some of my favorite trade show events. Consider attending if you want to get involved in a particular industry.
1. Marijuana Business Daily’s Business Conference and Expo
When: May, August, & November
Where: New Orleans (Spring), Canada (Summer), Las Vegas (Fall)
Why: Although the Cannabis Cup is my favorite event to celebrate and learn about the marijuana industry, MJBiz Daily’s conference is the best place to meet industry professionals and learn how to really run a business. Attendance has grown each year since its inception, and there’s not a single aspect of the industry you can’t learn about here.
You’ll find expert educational tracks to become the best cannabis grower, chef, extractor, dispensary, distributor, lawyer, investor, or anything else you want to be.
2. Consumer Technology Association’s International CES
Where: Las Vegas
Why: CES is more than just the largest consumer electronics trade show – it’s the biggest trade show on the planet. Whether you’re interested in seeing high-tech like 3D printers/scanners, mixed reality, robotics, and artificial intelligence, popular consumer brands like Sony, Samsung, and HTC, or learning about digital marketing from the best in the business, CES is the place to do it.
The expo floor alone is worth the price of admission, but that’s not all CES has. It also has specialized learning seminars, Shark Tank and other startup competitions, and opportunities to meet and greet c-suite executives at electronics companies around the world. From Silicon Valley to Hollywood and around the world, everybody who’s anybody is at CES.
3. National Confectioners Association’s Sweets & Snacks Expo
Why: If you have a sweet tooth, the Sweets & Snacks Expo is where you want to be. It’s like going trick-or-treating without needing a costume. If you’ve ever seen the Simpsons episode with the gummy Venus de Milo, this is the event Homer and Marge attended. It’s exactly as colorful and brilliant as you imagined too.
In addition to the expo floor, you’ll be able to attend industry conferences and meetings to learn more about the snack industry. Awards, trends, health information – if it affects the candy and snack industry, it’s discussed at this expo.
4. Entertainment Software Association’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)
Where: Los Angeles
Why: E3 was once an auxiliary event at CES. When the video game industry inevitably outgrew consumer electronics, the ESA broke off and moved it to L.A. There are still video games represented at CES, but E3 is the biggest video game trade show out there. Starting last year, its even been open to the public.
At E3, you’ll get a chance at hands-on demos of the latest games from the biggest developers. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony are all in attendance, and even with stories popping up of brands dropping out, they’re still there. They simply can’t afford to miss it. Press conferences are live-streamed these days and can be watched from home, but you can’t fully experience the spectacle that is E3 without taking the trip out to Los Angeles.
5. CTIA’s GSMA Mobile World Congress
Where: San Francisco
Why: Another electronics trade show may seem like overkill, but there’s a reason the GSMA and CTIA are becoming more and more important with each passing year. We’re increasingly moving toward a more wireless, mobile Internet. Both virtual and augmented reality, along with drones, tablets, smartphones, and the Internet of Things are all becoming more prolific. This is the trade show that focuses on all the issues surrounding mobile technologies.
Formerly known as Super Mobility Week and held in Las Vegas, it’s been moved to Silicon Valley. This is the trade show to attend if you want to learn more about mobile payments, the FCC, any wireless carrier, phone brand, and more. Like CES, there’s an expo hall, startup competitions, and educational tracks, so you’ll be able to get involved with any aspect of the mobile industry.