Trade shows in some form have been around for hundreds of years. In fact, the original shows were the traditional fairs and market days found throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. At that time, trade show booths were simply tables set up to display the wares of particular merchants or individuals. The majority of people couldn’t read, so having advertising copy was pointless.

As these market days grew more popular, more and more merchants began to travel long distances in order to sell their products to a greater variety of potential customers. The church and many rulers began to demand that sellers buy licenses in order to be able to set up their tables or displays of their wares. As in the old days, many exhibitions still take place over the weekend, reminiscent of markets that were linked to Sundays or Holy days.

Exhibitions Become Focused On Specific Industries

As the Middle Ages progressed, guilds focusing on specific industries or crafts gained power, and markets began to focus on specific commodities, such as wool and textile markets or silver fairs. Guilds were the modern precursor to unions, and as such held a great deal of power over who could display their wares and even the size of their booths or display tables.

World’s Fairs

The World’s Fairs of the 1800s and early 1900s featured thousands of trade show booth displays the products and services of hundreds of industries to the public. These were the precursors to today’s modern, specific exhibitions. The displays used at World’s Fairs were custom made for one specific exhibition and weren’t stored for future use because there simply weren’t that many events to attend.

The Modern Era Of Trade Fairs

Today’s trade show booths are direct descendants of the first modern displays which were made in the United States in the 1960s by a few companies who crafted them out of materials such as plywood, laminates, felt boards, and plastic. As modern associations became more powerful, exhibitions became increasingly popular. Technology turned many exhibitions into marketing gold mines thanks to radio, print, and television publicity of the events.

As long-distance travel became easier and less expensive, many businesses opted to participate in multiple shows each year. In response to demands from customers, manufacturers of displays began to design portable trade show booths that could be easily put up, taken apart, packed, and sent on to the next location.

Modern Trade Show Booths And Events

Today, you can choose from among hundreds of industry-specific shows and events. Some of these events host hundreds of companies who vie for space on the exhibit floor to set up elaborate displays touting their products. Some of the most popular events include those catering to the automobile, electronics, medical and home improvement industries. With over 80,000 associations active in the United States, any industry can find multiple exhibitions to attend every year.