Planning for a Trade Show

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Successful trade shows are a great way meet hundreds of eager prospects and qualified leads searching for solutions all in one location. That's why trade shows remain a critical part of a some companies' marketing collateral. With smart trade show planning and attention to details, your trade show can be a great success.

In this post, we'll discuss several strategic and actionable ways to to make your next trade show a successful trade show.

Identify Your Goals and Objectives

Goals and objectives are often treated as the same thing, but they are distinctly different. While they are each necessary for success, a goal is your big-picture plan, while objectives are a they way you go about executing your big-picture plan.

In general, there are usually three main goals for exhibitors at trade shows:

  • create more brand awareness
  • generate more leads
  • build new/better relationships

Whether your goals for exhibiting, align with one of these goals--or all of them--clearly defining your goal(s) can help you set objectives to reach them. This will be important because it will give you a better idea of how build your exhibit design and event marketing to align with these goals and objectives.

These should be established and communicated months in advance so they can direct the rest of decisions that will need to be made.

Establish a Trade Show Budget

It’s important to set realistic expectations for what a good trade show expo is supposed to be like. Everyone has their own unique experiences at these events. Some people are there just to network and meet new contacts, while others are there to make sales.

It's critical to establish a trade show budget and have a good idea of how many sales leads you want to attract to obtain the most effective return on investment (ROI). Do some studying. Include any costs associated with traveling to and from events, as well as any materials needed to set up an event space that reflects your brand and attracts visitors. For many organizations, trade shows can be the only of each year when they connect directly with buyers.

Consider Catering

Regardless of the trade show theme, people have to eat. If you are hosting a trade show booth, consider having snack items at your booth for your workers and those who stop by your booth to learn more.

When lunch time comes around where you eating? Is the venue or trade show organizer also catering the event? Are you treading certain leads to lunch? Are you having outside catering delivered? You'll want to coordinate with the venue to determine who could handle this responsibility well ahead of time.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Think of the trade show or convention as your own event. Don't assume that the convention will market itself. Your overall trade show or convention experiences will be more successful if they're promoted before, during, and after the event

Quite simply, you have to let people know you'll be there. Don't be shy about using all of your marketing channels to do it.

Leverage Your Social Media

Whether you opt to pay for ads on social media to promote your trade show booth is a budgeting issue, but you simply can't ignore social media here. Create an event on Facebook, share previews of the trade show to build excitement, and encourage your colleges to share this information, too.

Email Marketing

Launch an email campaign a few weeks before the event. During the week of your event, send a follow up to remind people where you'll be and what you'll be doing. You can even promote special offers or goodie bags for attendees to further nudge attendance. In addition, this is a good way to track who, of your current leads, actually attends.


You should absolutely write a blog post about the event. This is your opportunity to share, in detail, why this event is important. Explain why it is important to your business and/or industry and what you hope to gain from it. Remind others why it would also benefit them to attend. When colleagues sense your excitement and realize that there is also something in it for them, you increase your odds for higher attendance numbers.


While we mainly communicate digitally these days, people still crave real things they can see and touch. Consider simple trade show or conference flyers from the event. Be sure to include a note entailing where you will be set up at the trade show. Set these flyers in a high-traffic location where you know your target audience will see them.

Be an Active Presence

When you are at the event, take advantage of the time you worked to set up and promote. Don't just "man the desk." Be pro-active in engaging prospects and passersby. Have your elevator pitch ready so you can convey the most essential information succinctly and let other decide if they would like to know more or if they can move on.

If you have a product or service than can be demonstrated in your booth space, you should be demonstrating it every change you can get. Engaging people visually with a novel solution to a potential problem of theirs will earn you looks every time.

If your budget has allowed for promotional items to be handed out, you should hand out as many as you can. Even if the attendee isn't interested in your offering right now, they may in the future. Or they may learn a colleague could benefit from your offering. Having your name at as many fingertips as possible can only help make your phone ring.

Take Time to Recap

You may be exhausted after the event. That's normal. Take a beat to get your senses back about you. Then, look at your results and follow up. Did you execute on your objectives and reach some goals? Did you generate the leads you hoped? Were you able to spreads your name as far as you planned? Did you meet people at other booth's who might actually be able to help you with your offering(s)?

Depending up on what you consider success, you should always make time to follow up with the people who are expecting to hear from you. This is your chance build some relationships. Even if some of those leads don't pan out, you've established yourself as pleasant to work with and dependable. These days, that can go just as far as the effectiveness of your product or service in pleasing potential customers.