Hot Tips for a Successful Trade Show

01/25/2013 / in General, On the Road / by Maren

We're attending several trade shows and events this month, which got me thinking about how they really benefit a company. How can you make sure that you are getting the most out of the show and making the most efficient use of your time? I searched around on, one of my favorite websites, and found some excellent pointers and things to consider when attending any trade show or marketing event with the goal of promoting your brand.

Giant snowboarder mural outside of Outdoor Retailer Show that we're attending in Salt Lake City, UT
Giant snowboarder mural outside of Outdoor Retailer Show that we're attending in Salt Lake City, UT
Photo by B. Whitten

-Get exciting. I think way back to high school, when different colleges and groups would set up booths at lunch time to try to recruit students, and the only one that still stands out in my mind is the Marine Corps. They always brought a pull up bar and anyone could go up against a marine to try to prove his or her strength. No one ever did more pull ups than the marine, but the competition itself always drew in a crowd. People naturally want to be entertained and have fun. Creating some sort of commotion always draws people in, and creates a much more memorable experience than just another trade show booth. So maybe your booth workers aren't going to doing pull ups, but the opportunities here are endless. The key here is understanding your audience and what they want. So you sell health insurance, offer free health screenings. If you sell sports equipment, bring it with you and let people try it out. Have competitions. Think about what's been do before and try to do something newer and better. Create a buzz!

This is what we do to generate a buzz at shows (and show off our sculpted muscles at the same time)

This is what we do to generate a buzz (and show off a little)

-#Tweet it! Many shows have their own hashtag — use it in your Facebook and Twitter posts to reach out to other attendees and promote your presence. Offer something for people who stop by your booth, like a prize or discount. You could even make it interesting by posting a riddle or a trivia question. Whoever comes by with the answer wins a totally awesome prize! Post photos that show how much fun people are having at your booth. Make sure you include your booth number — make it easy for people to get to you!

-Go for the Goal. What do you want to get out of attending the show? "To get more business" is the obvious answer, but when you take the time to map it out, you really pin point what you're trying to do and also form a way to measure if it's really worth the time and money that you've invested into attending the show. Afterall, trade shows are a very expensive form of advertising. If your goal is to generate leads, how many leads do you need for it to be worth your time? If the goal is to promote a new product, how many people do you need to reach? This, in turn, will help you develop your own trade show booth strategy for each show.

-Reach out and touch somebody! Before the show: map out a list of people you want to meet with: potential clients, existing clients, suppliers and sponsors. Many shows will provide you with a list of attendees. Schedule meetings with the people that you really want to meet with for some valuable face-to-face time. At the show: make sure that the people who are working your booth understand your product and are willing to work it. No one should just stand behind the booth and wait for people to approach. Also make sure that the booth workers understand how to determine if a lead is worthwhile to ensure they're making the best use of their time. After the show: send thank you letters to people you met or offer a custom discount personalized for that client. Meaningful follow up is key!

-Show off a little. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to get in front of the public eye. Put on a presentation. Speak on a panel. Not only will this set you apart as an industry expert to the people at the show, it's also something that can be recorded and posted on sites like YouTube to gain countless views. Make the show accessible to those who are unable to attend. McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance, has done a great job with this. If you're a classic car enthusiast, you know that Scottsdale Auction Week is something to look forward to every year, kind of like the Super Bowl for a football fan. Not only does Hagerty have a presence at these auctions, but McKeel also speaks on several panels with other big names in the hobby. This type of publicity has played a key role in effectively making Hagerty Insurance a revered expert in the collector car industry. If you have the desire and the opportunity to speak on a panel, by all means, take advantage of it! Bonus: this strategy attracts the right people who are already interested in what you do. No matter what you do, you know it best. You're the expert! Share your knowledge in any way you can.

Just showing up to the show and standing behind the booth isn't enough. You need to have the right stuff and the right people to ensure that the event is successful. It's just a matter of understanding your audience and how to reach out to them.

What do you and your company do to ensure that you have a successful event? What's the craziest thing you've seen at a show? Leave your comments!

Sources and Related Links from

"The New Rules of Event Marketing" by Christine Lagorio

"How to Boost Traffic at Your Trade Show Booth" by Christine Lagorio

"Trade Show Advice for Startups" by Howard Greenstein

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