Trade shows are somewhat out of favor these days, and I think that's a shame. The more you know about business, the better you will be at solving new problems. And trade shows are a great way to get an instant education in one particular industry--a look at the competition among the larger and smaller players, the new trends, the new technologies, and the problems that are being solved.
And I find that I can learn a lot from trade shows representing industries other than my own. A trip to Las Vegas is great for this. There are typically several trade shows being held simultaneously, and I enjoy ducking in and out of each of them. By delving into a business that is very different from my own, I find that I can absorb new ideas about marketing and other core processes. Often, there are whole ways of doing business in one industry that have not taken hold in another.
On a recent trip, for example, I spent time at a materials-handling show. The companies in this particular industry are experimenting with some of the most inventive automation that I had ever seen. I actually think that some of the technology they were using could be adapted for my industry, to make some very new kinds of video games. On another trip, I went to a retail-fixtures convention. There, I came up with an idea for a new market for some of our software.
It never hurts to learn and to get out of the usual a rut.