The trade show landscape for health science organizations is coming to the end of a multiyear evolution. In the wake of a worldwide pandemic and in the midst of an economic downturn, the standards and expectations of trade show participation are settling into something of a “new normal” — or at least a “now normal.” 

Make no mistake about it: trade shows are making their way back and attendance is up. However, the goals, budgets, and tactics of the pre-pandemic world are no longer enough to stay competitive, get noticed, and capture leads in a way that’s meaningful. The shows might look the same, but what it takes to be successful and actually illustrate ROI requires a new strategy.  

Let’s call this new strategy your “trade show truth” — and the following are three questions that will help you define it.  

1. YOUR GOALS: Are you precise? 

In the recent past, industry norms held that around 30% of a health science company’s marketing budget should be devoted to trade shows, and that approximation used to be enough for most organizations to determine their yes/no RSVP list.1 These days, though, trade show budgeting is more of a fine art than a rubber stamp.  

Spending 30% of your marketing budget on trade shows is fine if you have precise strategies for achieving ROI. Without such precision, though, you may find that outdated trade show strategies from the pre-pandemic years don’t stack up ROI the way they used to. Let precision support you in defining your trade show strategy by focusing on the following factors: 

  • Audience: Which shows’ attendance/exhibition would maximize exposure to the parts of your target audience that you are most focused on nurturing in the coming year? 
  • Show size: In being selective with your show choices, consider what will work best for your business: a more intimate show with more face time with leads or a larger show with more brand-building impact on a larger audience.  
  • Lead scoring & lead nurturing: Is there rigor involved in your lead process? And if so, will you be applying that rigorous scoring to all your trade show interactions? This is the moment when cross-team buy in from your marketing and business development professionals can truly empower your sales. When marketing and BD teams work well together, those synergies create serious sales enablement opportunities. (Curious how to automate and expand upon your lead nurturing? We recently asked top experts in the field some of your most pressing questions about marketing automation.) 
  • Track, measure, report: It’s difficult to paint an accurate ROI picture without asking the right questions about every point of contact: 
    • 1. Where does this contact sit in my prospects’ journey? 
    • 2. Which efforts helped nurture this prospect prior to the trade show? 
    • 3. What are the next steps for this prospect following the event? 
    • 4. How has the prospect’s lead score changed since the trade show? 

2. OUR BUDGET: What’s the right fit? 

There is no longer a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to larger, industry-wide trade shows. Yearly life science juggernauts once considered “must attend” events — such as DIA and PHUSE — are slowly pivoting toward their own specialized audiences. On top of that, many small to mid-tier research organizations are taking closer looks at their own annual budgets and choosing to be highly selective about where they attend. Not all trade show attendance is meaningful, which is why it can be critical to briefly evaluate each event prior to any RSVP


Attendees will often be broken down into buckets, such as the sectors represented and the percentage of those with buying power.


There should be large sections of uninterrupted exhibiting hours at convenient and strategic times throughout the event.


Gross attendance often includes exhibitors and many others outside of your buying audience. Net attendance provides a more accurate forecast.


This list can often be included in sponsorship costs, but its level of detail and sanctioned pre-show use varies from event to event.

Of course, the two key considerations missing from this list are size and cost — but these four initial questions will help you better understand the payoff associated with each event. In turn, you can compare this payoff to final costs and the overall structure of the exhibition to determine if the trade show in question is right for you. 

Size does really matter. As inferred in the previous section — and very much depending on your lead nurturing goals — a sprawling and expansive exhibition might not be as effective as a smaller, more intimate environment. On the other hand, if you are hoping to raise awareness and generate buzz, then you might want the largest, loudest megaphone possible no matter the surroundings. 

Cost is equally important when it comes to evaluating trade show attendance. In this area, honest evaluation is paramount — evaluation of every penny you’re spending to attend and navigate a specific trade show. This evaluation includes everything from the actual sponsorship and travel expenses to booth materials, promotional tactics, and shipping/logistics. 

3. YOUR WOW: Is it personal? 

At SCORR, we believe in the power of WOW moments, and that belief is very much reflected in the trade show experiences of the 2020s. Given the intense competition in every corner of the life sciences industry, there is a persistent need to create a spectacle — to get noticed. In fact, some of the largest industry showcases are now bursting at the seams with interactive events, eye-catching displays, and some of the most unforgettable exhibits you can imagine. 

Want to try out a hair-raising VR experience? Want to order a cappuccino with your face etched into the foam? Industry trade shows can make it happen. There’s just one question to keep in mind when selecting a right-fit experience for your audience: Is it personal? After over two decades of serving the health sciences industry, we have discovered one universal truth about creating a meaningful trade show spectacle: it has to be personal

“We’ve done a lot of exciting and eye-catching activities through SCORR, and those are amazing for generating buzz at a big event. One of the most successful ones yet was when we had booth visitors assemble cognitive care kits at SCOPE US 2023. It was educational, personal, and meaningful for many attendees. … People really responded.” 

– Samantha Eells, Co-Founder of Lightship 

Flash for the sake of flash fails to serve your established goals while simultaneously crippling your budget. Likewise, a meaningless product giveaway with no precise goal — such as handing out unbranded phone chargers from your booth — is not even a spectacle; it is simply an extra expense. On the contrary, a flashy activity that is both personal and shareable can create authentic buzz and generate real buy in from prospects at your table.  


Your “trade show truth” is the reality that decides which exhibitions are worth the investment for your organization. This truth is part of the standards and expectations that determine your goals, your budget, and your WOW factor when planning for and attending industry events. The three questions presented here are the first step toward a better understanding of every trade show you attend. 

Ready to define your own “trade show truth”? SCORR is here to help.  

1SCORR Marketing 2022 Health & Life Sciences Marketing Trends Report

About the Author

Cherie Squires


SCORR Marketing’s Senior Director of Trade Shows & Events, Cherie Squires, is an accomplished life science marketing expert and leadership professional with several years of experience across business development and corporate sector environments. With a track record of delivering exceptional customer service and exceeding expectations, Cherie is a highly motivated leader who thrives on challenges. Her strengths include building and maintaining client relationships; managing complex operational, strategic, and tactical projects to meet organizational needs; and leading by example with a focus on developing talent. Visit