Exhibitions as communication
: A study of the role and effectiveness of trade shows

  • J. W. D. Blythe

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This overview relates to a research programme conducted over some eight years. The research concerns exhibitions and trade fairs, and examines the communications issues thereof from both the exhibitors' viewpoint and the visitors' viewpoint.
    The research was conducted from an interpretive viewpoint, using interviews and questionnaire surveys, and has both qualitative and quantitative aspects. The results of the research were mapped against models of communication and against traditional marketing models to assess the extent to which exhibitors are being realistic in their approach to exhibiting, given the characteristics and behaviour of visitors. This does not, of course, provide a definitive answer as to the effectiveness or
    potential effectiveness of exhibitions as communications tools. What it does show is that exhibitors are, in many cases, setting inappropriate objectives and harbouring unrealistic expectations. The conclusion of the research outlines a model of how exhibitions work as a communications device, and provides evidence that miscommunication is occurring between exhibitors and visitors due to a failure on the part of exhibitors to understand how exhibitions can be used to best effect. The model is almost certainly relevant to other areas of marketing communication, and offers a new way of understanding the communications process, particularly in business-to business contexts.

    The overall finding of the research is that the majority of exhibitors are almost certainly harbouring unrealistic expectations, in particular regarding selling objectives, and that exhibitors do not always evaluate their activities as effectively as they might (particularly SMEs). These unrealistic expectations of what exhibitions can do for them are likely to lead many of them to the conclusion that exhibitions are ineffective. From the visitor research it appears that exhibitions could be extremely effective in terms of communication objectives, but probably less so in terms of selling objectives: the overwhelming conclusion is that most exhibitors are directing their efforts in the wrong direction, and should (instead of concentrating on sales) be concentrating on other elements of the marketing mix.
    Date of AwardDec 2002
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTony Gear (Supervisor)


    • Trade shows
    • Display of merchandise

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