Trade shows are Back, but Dealmaking Has Changed

The webinar can be viewed at:

A summary of the discussion is below:

A panel including Sean Cole (Accel-KKR), Brandon Knapp (Evercap Advisors), Raya Al-Khatib (Francisco Partners), and Mike Cavallaro (Morgan Partners) discuss their views and advice regarding tradeshows and conferences.


Trade Shows Per Year

  • 2020 and 2021 showed substantial decreases in the amount of trade shows.
  • Trade shows for 2022 and 2023 are back at pre-pandemic levels.

Deal Volume and Value

  • 2022 deal volume and value both remain lower than 2021.

Dry Powder

  • Dry powder is at all-time highs in 2022 with over ~$1.1T

Directly Sourced Deals

  • Per survey of 96 dealmakers, 64% of respondents mentioned that generating more directly sourced deals was a top initiative for the next 6-12 months.
  • Almost 90% of respondents mention that conferences were a key strategy for sourcing deals.
  • However, only 44% of respondents are using data to plan for conferences.

How does conference attendance play into your firm’s strategy?

Evercap leverages conferences to source deals for their clients (private equity firms and strategic acquirers) in a more efficient way. Here’s how it works:

  • Traditionally, Evercap would identify targets that fit their client’s M&A criteria and then set up introductory phone calls.
  • By having clients directly attend industry conferences, Evercap skips the intro call step and facilitates face-to-face meetings with potential targets.

This approach offers several advantages:

  • Client Commitment: Attending an industry event demonstrates a client’s genuine interest in the sector, making them more attractive to potential targets.
  • Increased Response Rates: Business owners often attend conferences specifically to network and meet potential partners, leading to higher response rates for meeting requests.
  • Building Rapport: In-person meetings allow for quicker relationship building compared to virtual calls. This can be crucial in the initial stages of a deal.

How do you scan the universe of conferences and decide which ones you want to attend?

Francisco Partners:

  • Industry Focus: Raya prioritizes conferences relevant to the specific industries of her portfolio companies. This ensures she’s connecting with the most relevant targets.
  • Quality over Quantity: She favors fewer, in-depth meetings over a packed schedule. This allows for more meaningful conversations and relationship building.
  • Proactive Scheduling: Booking meetings four weeks in advance gives portfolio companies a prime spot on busy calendars before they fill up.

Morgan Partners:

  • Data-Driven Planning: They analyze attendance lists, focusing on attributes like ownership status, employee count, and business model. This allows them to identify the best potential fits for their needs.
  • CRM Integration: They cross-check the list with their existing CRM to avoid redundancies and prioritize the correct companies.
  • Location Leverage: Morgan Partners utilizes platforms like SourceScrub to identify companies geographically close to the conference. This allows for potential pre- or post-conference meetings, maximizing their time and resources.

What are the key technologies that you use to plan conferences and trade shows?

Pre-conference Scouting:

  • SourceScrub: Platform that all four firms use. SourceScrub helps them gather comprehensive details about companies attending conferences, including things like ownership status, employee count, and business model. This allows them to identify the most relevant targets before the event.


  • Salesforce (Morgan Partners) & HubSpot (Evercap): These Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are crucial for managing conference leads. They allow firms to track interactions, store contact information, and streamline communication efforts.
  • Accel-KKR: They use Sugar CRM for similar functionalities.


  • Salesloft (Accel-KKR): This platform aids in automating and personalizing email outreach to conference attendees. This helps firms reach out to potential targets more efficiently.

Additional Considerations:

  • Evercap: They leverage their CRM to launch customized follow-up campaigns, including letters, emails, calls, and LinkedIn messages. This personalized approach helps demonstrate genuine interest and a strong value proposition to potential targets.
  • Francisco Partners: While technology plays a role, they emphasize staying current on industry trends to ensure insightful conversations during meetings.

Conference Meeting Tips

  • Pen and Paper for Active Listening: While laptops offer convenience, consider using a pen and paper for note-taking. This can help you stay present in the conversation and avoid distractions compared to the constant activity of typing.
  • Fewer, Better Questions: When it comes to questions, prioritize a few well-crafted inquiries over a barrage of rapid-fire ones. This demonstrates attentiveness and allows for a more natural conversation flow, avoiding an interview-like atmosphere.
  • Honesty is the Best Policy: Building trust is essential. Never mislead the meeting scheduler by claiming prior connections with executives. Transparency goes a long way in establishing a positive rapport.

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