How a First-Year Trade Show Sold Out of Space

Author: David McMillin       

There are no guarantees of success when starting a new trade show from scratch. After all, busy attendees and budget-conscious exhibitors have plenty of reasons not to add another program to their calendars. However, the organizers of the first-ever North American Commercial Vehicle Show overcame those challenges of trade-show participation when they sold out of exhibit space at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC). From Sept. 25–28, more than 6,000 visitors browsed the latest trucking innovations from 439 exhibitors.

How did the show manage to achieve so much in its inaugural year? Larry Turner, president and CEO of Hannover Fairs USA and co-organizer of the show, told PCMA that the key ingredients were time and thoughtful research.

“Our partner, Newcom Business Media, and I first started discussing the opportunity two years before the event,” Turner said. “We spent time interviewing key companies in the industry to gain an understanding of the needs and developed a concept that was shared and refined over a period of time. We officially launched the event in May of 2016.”

Defying Convention

While many shows strive to be a once-a-year, must-attend event, the initial research revealed that an annual gathering for the commercial-trucking industry didn’t make sense. NACV will only occur every other year. “The companies [who participated at NACV 2017] were looking at a show cycle that took place every other year,” Turner said. “Existing events are on an annual basis, but the industry does not have new product and technology announcements every year [to support an annual event].”

An alternative show cycle isn’t the only unconventional piece of the NACV Show. As more exhibitions work to incorporate some sort of educational component, the experience doubled down on a “business-centric” model. The focus of the entire program was on the floor. “The industry was looking for a business event where key customers could have quality time with key suppliers,” Turner said. “The companies wanted an event that was a trade show only without education or conference components.”

Making Big Plans

Turner said that large exhibitors and attendees both gave the inaugural event positive feedback. Based on the reaction, the company is working with the Atlanta CVB and the GWCC staff to secure a larger space in 2019.

“We are expanding to include both the A and B halls at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, which will increase our space from about 600,000 square feet to around one million square feet,” Turner said. “We had a good [number of companies] on the waiting list coming into the 2017 event and have a number of potential exhibitors who wanted to walk the show this year to get a feel for the new event before committing to exhibit.”

It’s never too early to think about even bigger plans, too. “We also have a minimum of one million square feet of space on hold [at the center] for 2021 and 2023,” Turner said. “Based on the results of 2019, we will look at potential expanding in later years as well.”

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