Visitors passing by stands at exhibition

Those who frequent the trade show circuit recognize the benefits of participating far outweigh the costs. Exposing your company to a new audience or solidifying your reputation with an existing market opens up endless possibilities. Generate meaningful leads, educate new clients, and even provide a hands-on look at your products or services – all by participating in a one- or multiple-day event. Offering consumers a tangible connection to your company is priceless, especially if you are a web-based or service-oriented company.

As a PR partner for bridal and entertainment trade shows, I work closely with vendors to ensure everyone remains engaged throughout the process. Being proactive as well as connecting with and coaching vendors before, during, and after the shows has been crucial to the success of each show.

Whether a newbie or an experienced trade show participant, the following tips will put you on the right path to success.


Promote your attendance at the show.
Many companies believe show promotion is best left to the show organizers, but this is just not the case! If each participating vendor reached out to their own established network, the resulting collective network will ensure phenomenal results for everyone involved. One easy way to promote your participation – announce it via social media, and don’t forget about the power of tagging relevant people. Or send an email blast to subscribers about your participation and what they can expect from the show. The larger the number of show attendees, the more chances you have to initiate and develop new leads. In the end, your success at the show is directly linked to the success of the overall show.

Let experience guide.
First impressions count. Always. Assigning the task of manning a booth is not an appropriate initiation rite for newer employees or to be seen as grunt work relegated to interns. Staff who are well-versed in the company and its products/services serve as representatives and are more likely to transform an attendee into a viable lead. Train newer staff to understand your products and services inside and out and anticipate the questions that might arise. Participating in a trade show is a great learning tool for all levels of employees – one that is best experienced under the guidance of a seasoned and knowledgeable employee.

Stand Out From the Crowd

Stand out from the crowd.
Design your booth in way that best reflects your company’s mission and captures attention of passersby. Flashing lights and blaring music will not impress anyone (unless you’re a DJ vendor at a bridal show, and even then, be mindful of your neighbors!). Less is more. A booth crowded with too many product samples or a clutter of brochures and flyers will make it difficult for the attendee to focus on pertinent information – or what you’re saying.

Be approachable.
Smile, smile, smile! With very little effort, your positive vibes alone will lure attendees to your booth. It goes without saying that sitting in the back of the booth looking dejected will deter attendees from stopping by and will foster a negative impression about your company. Instead, ditch the chairs entirely. Keep the layout of your booth open and inviting with tables positioned along the outer booth walls in a U shape. Engage attendees in thoughtful conversation, rather than a direct pitch for products. Ask questions, and learn what the individual hopes to gain from stopping at your booth. Spending a few minutes assessing a potential lead is worth the time. Jot down notes to help you remember key details. A list of interested leads will result in a more fruitful outcome than a longer list of general attendees.

Business People Chatting

Be neighborly.
Smile, smile, smile! Yes, the same concepts apply to your fellow vendors as do with show attendees. Being positive, forthcoming, and genuinely interested in other participating companies is just as important as developing leads. Trade shows are an excellent networking opportunity where you can learn more about colleagues and swap ideas. In some industries, such as wedding and event planning, several vendors may work on one event together and paths are sure to cross. Developing and maintaining key professional relationships will go a long way to increasing business opportunities and strengthening your brand’s reputation.

Make your giveaway meaningful.
How many pens, notepads, and stress balls have you gathered from trade shows in the past? These items are likely cluttering your office and collecting dust. Put some thought into how you would like attendees to remember your company. Design your giveaway to show both your understanding of the market and your insight into what potential clients find useful. Use this opportunity to offer a potential lead some insight into your product or service. Consider holding a raffle prize at the end of the show, where the winner gets a complementary service from your company. Photographers can raffle mini-engagement sessions. Caterers and bakeries can offer discounts on their products. Complimentary spa services, discounts on catered food or the wedding cake – the possibilities are endless.

Follow-up on leads.
You worked hard during the show, so the last thing you want is for leads (and their interest) to wither away. The day after the show, send an email to leads thanking them for stopping by your booth. Follow-up with individual leads (refer back to your notes), and send a personalized email. Later in the week, a phone call may be more appropriate depending on the needs of the lead. The time spent after the show following-up is just as important as the time spent on the exhibit floor.

Don’t let a few unsuccessful trade show experiences color your view forever. Reflect on those experiences and consider using a proactive approach for your next trade show – the result is likely to be a more positive and engaging experience. As part of a well-rounded strategy, trade shows are a wonderful way to boost your brand recognition and reputation, generate leads within a new target market, and develop new professional partnerships.

In the end, the time and effort spent ensuring your trade show appearance is a success will directly enhance the number of qualified leads you acquire. Make the most of your trade show experience and guarantee lasting results for your company.