Top Trade Shows and Opportunities for Event Planners

If you're interested in finding professional development opportunities (as well as trade shows) that cater to event planners, the first step is to join the local chapter of one of the industries associations The two top ones are Meeting Professionals International (MPI) or International Special Events Society (ISES).

The next step is to attend one of the national or international trade shows because they offer excellent educational and networking opportunities with others in the field. Below is a look at seven trade shows that event planners should consider attending:

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MPI World Education Congress

Event planner haeding to a booth in an exhibition hall that she designed for a trade show.
Artfully79 / Getty Images 

MPI holds its World Education Congress each year in July or August in a different location within North America. The event includes educational sessions that focus on business, leadership, and other career-development skills.

This program has a more international perspective than MPI's other two conferences (the Professional Education Conference-North America and the Professional Education Conference-Europe).

Anywhere from 3,000 to 3,500 people from around the world attend the WEC each year.

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International Confex

International Confex is the United Kingdom's leading event exhibition, bringing together people who organize events with the providers of venues, destinations, and event support services offered in the U.K. and internationally.

Confex includes educational programs for those whose responsibilities include events-related activities in corporate, agency, and association environments. Because it is the most comprehensive event of its kind in the U.K., buyers come to Confex to compare, source and select new venues and services. More than 11,000 people attend Confex each year.

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Idea Factory

Idea Factory is a four-day trade show targeted to event planners and offers educational seminars and workshops, a catering symposium, an expo, and social events for those interested in networking. The event is attended by owners of local event planning companies, professional caterers, entertainment brokers, special effects designers, and tent rental companies.

Idea Factory, which has been operating since 1996, draws a crowd of approximately 2,500 event professionals each year. In addition to the educational seminars and evening events that spotlight the newest products and ideas, the best people and places in the industry are honored each year via the Event Solutions Spotlight Awards.

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Catering Executives Conference

The National Association of Catering Executives hosts an annual Educational Conference for on-premise caterers, off-premise caterers, event planners, and industry vendors/suppliers.

Although caterers are the primary target for this national event, event planners are also exposed to the newest trends and ideas that can be incorporated into their programs. Attendees also gain valuable insight into the planning and execution of food and beverage (key to the profession) in an environment that includes networking and professional development.

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National Restaurant Association Show

The National Restaurant Association, Hotel-Motel Show is held annually each spring in Chicago at McCormick Place. The show features more than 2,140 exhibitors who showcase their products and services in more than 890 product categories. It is not unusual for this prestigious event to draw a crowd of 75,000 people who fly in from across the U.S. and dozens of countries around the globe. 

Areas of focus include things necessary for good event planning including food, beverage, equipment, small-wares, apparel, tabletop, furnishings, design, technology, and services. This show is not open to the public, so if you plan to attend credentials that reflect foodservice or hospitality industry involvement is required.

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The Motivation Show

The Motivation Show brings together buyers of promotional products and incentives with industry suppliers. The show attracts about 9,000 buyers and 6,500 exhibitors and other interested industry professionals.

Half of the exhibitors at The Motivation Show are focused on promotional products (such as corporate gifts) and the other half promote travel destinations around the world. In addition to this, the Motivation Show includes a series of seminars on effective incentive, recognition, and promotion program planning.

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EIBTM stands for The Global Meetings and Incentive Exhibition, which is the leading exhibition for the conference, incentives, events, business travel and meetings industry for those based in Europe. EIBTM includes an exhibition floor, networking opportunities, and professional education.