15 Ways to Make Trade Shows Work for You


Trade shows are industry gatherings that offer a great opportunity to meet new prospects, build relationships with suppliers, and stay ahead of the competition by getting informed on the latest trends in your industry.

A trade show also allows you to promote your services and develop a database of qualified customers. However, there are a lot of shows to choose from and attending a show requires a fair amount of preparation. Here are some tips for putting trade shows to work for you.

1) Find trade shows in your area. What is being held at your local convention centre? Check your Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade to see when their shows take place. What happens in your business community during Small Business Week? Search online trade show directories like biztradeshows.com, expodisplays.com, showsmart.com, etc.

2) Choose your shows carefully, investigating each potential event before you commit. Who are the sponsors? What was the attendance level at last year’s show? Search blogs and social media for comments from people who attended previous events. Ensure that as an exhibitor, you are targeting the right audience.

3) Once you select your show, determine if you can further leverage the opportunity. Are there sponsorships that you can take advantage of to promote your brand? Are there presentation opportunities that will allow you to position yourself as an industry thought-leader?

4) Promote your plans to attend the trade show. Mention it in your marketing materials, newsletters and social media networks.

5) Use social media to connect with potential leads and fellow exhibitors. Is there a LinkedIn Group or Meetup.com event organized around the trade show? Does the show have a hashtag you can use? Take photos during the show and post them to your social feeds.

6) Consider how you can prospect to other exhibitors. Ask the event coordinator for a list of other attendees, and approach them for their pre-show needs a couple of weeks before the event. Take time before the show opens to the general public to introduce yourself to other attendees exhibiting at the show.

7) Refine what messages you wish to get across when you are speaking to potential customers. People will be visiting a lot of booths throughout the show, and it’s important you don’t overload them with information. Focus on two or three main points you’d like to convey and hone your message so that you can communicate it effectively.

8) Set objectives before attending the show. What would you like to get out of it? Building relationships with new suppliers? Recruitment? Adding a certain number of prospects to your database? Defining your goals will help you achieve them and determine the value of returning next year.

9) Plan ahead and come prepared with posters, marketing literature, business cards and professional looking visuals. Learn more about creating killer trade show displays.

10) Ensure that your staff is personable, friendly and knowledgeable about your business. Have training sessions before the trade show to ensure your staff can answer questions about your products and services, and are well-informed about what you do. Schedule coverage so everyone at your booth can take breaks as needed.

11) If possible, wear branded apparel or your company’s colours.

12) Ask open-ended questions to engage prospects in conversation.

13) Host a draw or a raffle, having people enter with their business cards. Entice people to your booth with prizes that have some value to the winner and reflect your products or services. But remember, a trade show is not Halloween – you don’t have to provide treats to everyone who comes your way.

14) Consider how you will capture visitors’ data for followup after the show. Enter all leads into a database.

15) Reach out to your leads within 10 days of the show to keep yourself fresh in their minds.

Are you attending a trade show soon? The UPS Store can help you design and print some of your trade show materials such as flyers, business cards, oversized banners and posters that best represent you and your business.

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