The events industry encompasses many, many things, and keeping track of everything can get quite confusing. One of the most confusing things is actually the name of the industry we are referring to; are they events? Or actually exhibitions? Where do trade shows fit in? And what do we do with conferences? Don’t even remind me of summits.
So let’s shine a light on what they actually are, once and for all.
This is the term that generally encompasses all the meanings possible and best represents the whole industry. Event Education notes that an event “can be described as a public assembly for the purpose of celebration, education, marketing or reunion”. So it can go for anything and everything, without having any other meaning that can deceive the possible audience.
An exhibition, on the other hand, is a bit more specific in it’s meaning; commonly used for events where the display of goods or services is the main focus. This type of event is mainly for networking in different industries and as a way for people to show off their hard work, their skills and their product. An exhibition may or may not include a trade fair; and speaking of trade fairs…
Trade fairs or trade shows are exhibitions where trade or buying and selling is conducted. In a way, exhibitions are theory and trade shows are applying that exact theory. You go there with the intent of buying products or services, to close a deal or start a partnership. Trade fairs are the best way to check on what your competitors are working on, so don’t miss out on a opportunity to get some intel.
Conferences are generally understood , as E Venues notes, “as a meeting of several people to discuss a particular topic”. In the same boat there are conventions, colloquia or symposiums, but this time the differences aren’t major, so they can be used interchangeably. Just from these fancy terms you can already gather that conferences are quite formal. While a conference can differ from the others in terms of size and purpose, the term can be used to cover the general concept. Conferences generally have speakers, but not always discussions, a different approach than exhibitions and trade fairs, where 1-on-1 communication is key. Even if some see this as a detriment, conferences are the best way to see, hear and spark new insights into lingering questions and renew excitement about the work you do.
Summits are the most official of them all. And the most formal, even more formal than conferences. In general, the people present there are heads of departments, companies or even heads of state, so that’s why a good suit will be the best thing to wear when attending. The more top executives that are going to be present, the more big business there is going to be, so be ready. Organizing a summit is what sets you apart from others in the industry, but at the same time it’s the hardest to plan and actually make it happen. But if done correctly, it can have the best return of investment ever.
What do you think? What other terms in the events industry have you encountered?