I am involved in two product related start ups as an adviser and partner which will both probably hit the market within the same time frame. As research and planning is being conducted by each respective team, I am beginning to realize the importance of trade shows. Every industry you can think of has trade shows. These are great opportunities to learn more about your industry, network, find potential suppliers/customers, and begin spreading the word about your start up. The downfall is these events are expensive. The entry fees are expensive, getting a table is even more expensive, and then there are all the travel related expenses.
The best strategy from my point of view is to first go as a visitor to get a feel for the show. If you blog about the industry you may be able to go for free or reduced rate as being part of the press. You can also incorporate trade shows into vacation plans so you can have a mix of business & pleasure and it is a potential write off. In future years, you can plan how to best leverage the opportunity of having an exhibitor table and since you have been there before you know how to best go about it.
Tradeshow directories and resources: