Trade shows are something that a lot of people never get to enjoy, and this is really a shame, because as an attendee, they can be a lot of fun (and a great way to kill some time while still getting paid for working). The people who put on trade shows are well aware that trade shows are fun to attend, too; that’s why they have them at the kind of places they do. Places that would, otherwise, be a reasonable place for a vacation or something similar. A lot of trade shows are held in locations like New York City, Boston, Chicago, various parts of Texas, California, and pretty much anywhere in Hawaii (also, for some reason, Cancun, Mexico seems to remain a popular destination for trade shows, though I have no idea why). This serves a two-fold purpose. For the people who are going to the trade show, it makes it a more appealing trip, which means that they’re more likely to go and enjoy the experience and thus to come again the next year. For those putting on the show, they’re more likely to attract more people,because who doesn’t enjoy a tax-deductible work vacation where you get paid to socialize and look at things, and then to spend the night having a good time? That’s pretty much everyone’s goal for a dream job, really.
Trade shows are either open or closed to the public, depending on the industry and the individual show. The way that you need to set up your trade show displays, also, will be different based on what kind of show you’re attending.
For example, every year, guitar companies put on a guitar show called ‘NAMM’, and this is basically the year’s big trade show for guitars. It’s open to everyone in the United States, so anyone can come, as long as they can afford the ticket and are willing to follow various rules and whatnot. Imagine it. Tradeshow booths upon tradeshow booths filled with the newest things in guitars, the newest models of the greatest guitars in the world. Gibson Les Pauls, Gretsch White and Black Falcons, Fender Telecasters (not Stratocasters. Those things are terrible. I had a cheap one as a kid, and it completely ruined Strats for me for life), all as far as the eye can see.
But it’s not just something that they’ve put up for you to see, but not touch; NAMM isn’t the kind of thing that you would run into at guitar center, where you can look, but not enjoy. They have guitars placed up on racks so that you can play them, or amps everywhere that you can enjoy, or even things like new models of guitar tuners or new cables for getting the most sound out of your electric pickups (yeah, there’s not a lot of science proving that the cable makes a huge amount of difference, but whatever, people are going to sell what they’re going to sell), and literally every single thing that you see there, you can pick up and play on, at least until someone tells you to knock it off because they’ve heard stairway to heaven way too much today and just aren’t putting up with it anymore. This is the kind of thing that burns into your mind, when you pick up a guitar and play it and it just sounds perfect and feels like butter in your hands.
On the other hand, if, say, you’re at a guitar show that is geared toward only the professionals, you’re not going to be seeing people allowing you to just pick things up and play them. Used guitar shops have a lot of trade shows each year, where people are unloading things they can’t seem to sell where they are, and their trade show booths are very protective of the gear that they have to sell or trade. You have to ask to touch something, and then the dealing begins. There’s no flashy booths, no lovely amps, no booth babes, just a bunch of guitars in a well-lit room and a bunch of guys arguing over how much a belt scratch devalues a guitar that is twice as old as I am. It’s all professionals, no one outside of the professional setting, and because of this, they’re going to be run in just such a way that professionals are able to effectively do what they need to, and the booths reflect that.
So, be prepared to fit into whatever crowd you’re going to for your trade show, and make sure you know what is being traded and sold. Also, don’t buy a Stratocaster, because they’re awful. No offense Fender, the Telecaster is infinitely better.