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How to Make the Most of Trade Shows + Events

You’ve probably heard that trade shows are great opportunities to get in front of potential customers, but it can also mean a lot of pressure. After all, having a booth at a trade show or event often comes with an enormous price tag. So how can you ensure you’re making the most of your investment?

We’ve compiled some tips and tricks on trade show marketing to help you stand out from the crowd and make the most of trade shows and events.

Before the Trade Show

1. Start Early

Start your marketing efforts before the trade show even begins. Typically, you should first reach out to attendees 4–6 weeks before the show. If you’ve collected contact information from attendees at past trade shows or events, start with this list. You can then add any new contacts you’ve made to that list.

While you’re thinking ahead, it’s a good idea to book your booth well in advance so you get the best location possible. People will have a much easier time following up with you when they can find you! Confirm your booth size, booth number (to include in pre-event marketing), and what’s included (table, power, internet access, and so on). Make arrangements for any special requirements you might have, too.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have the tools you need to promote yourself at the event. Make sure to order things like roll-up banners, business cards, flyers, and promotional items far in advance and in large enough quantities that you won’t run out.

2. Meet with Attendees

Some attendees might come into the city a few days before the actual event. This is a great opportunity to arrange meetings with them to check in and see how they’re doing. You may even want to consider a pre-conference mixer or meet-and-greet with drinks and appetizers. This is a more casual way to talk to prospects, get to know people, and create connections.

When you do meet people, you should be collecting their email addresses and phone numbers so you can contact them again later. This will help you turn a casual connection into a more lasting business relationship.

3. Develop a Content Strategy

People need to know that you’ll be at the trade show. It might even influence their decision to go! You can use your website, social media, direct mail, and any existing contacts you already have to get the word out.

As soon as you’ve booked your spot at the trade show, you should have a landing page set up on your website. The page’s URL should contain the event’s name and date. This will ensure that your website shows up when people are searching for trade show information, which keeps you top of mind before they even get to your booth.

In addition to announcing your presence at the event, be sure to mention where you’ll be located, what you’re looking forward to, and what guests can expect from your booth. You may want to begin writing articles relevant to specific topics before the trade show. Articles like this will get people excited to come visit your booth. Share these articles on social media, too, and use the event hashtag to ensure you’re a part of the conversation.

At the Trade Show

1. Set Goals

Each event should have an immediate, measurable action you’d like visitors to take. For example, you could be encouraging people to RSVP for another upcoming event, or to sign up for your email list so you can invite them to future events. Your goal should have a number attached to it so you know if your efforts were successful (e.g., 50 event RSVPs, 100 new email subscribers).

2. Make a Strong First Impression

Your booth needs to stand out from everyone else’s. If you don’t have enough budget to do something extravagant, there are other ways to make your booth more welcoming.

For example, the smell of hot coffee or freshly baked cookies gives off a welcoming aroma. Food doesn’t just attract a crowd — it also helps people remember you. Anything that generates interest will increase traffic to your booth.

This is also a great opportunity for people to have a positive first impression of your brand. If you’re giving out hot coffee, do it in branded cups. Cookies? Put them in branded napkins. Swag items? Get your logo all over them.

3. Create an Experience

Once you get people to your booth, be sure to keep them there long enough to capture their contact information. If you can give people a way to touch, hold, and interact with your brand, you’ll create more opportunities to engage with them. They’ll stay at your booth longer and walk away having learned more about what you have to offer.

Product demonstrations are a great way to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to look into unique new ways to showcase the product. Incorporating games, videos, or a brand-related challenge that requires them to sign up to participate are also great ways to create an experience.

Booth Layout Tips

  • Don’t place a table at the front of the booth. This creates a physical barrier between you and your potential customers. Instead, arrange things in an open, welcoming layout that brings people into the space and invites them to interact.
  • Place the most enticing things near the back of the booth space. That way people have to walk by the other elements of your booth, which maximizes your presence and exposure.
  • If you have something that people might line up for, like refreshments or swag items, ensure that there are things for them to interact with (like a demo model or an interactive display) while they wait.
  • Consider bringing along an iPad for email newsletter sign-ups or event registrations.
  • Staff should wear name tags so they’re easier to approach for questions. Ensure they’re standing up and engaging with attendees.
  • Keep your booth clean.
  • It’s a good idea to have a minimum of two people working a booth to allow for breaks and to ensure there’s always someone available to talk to potential customers.

4. Explore Partnerships

Once your booth is set up, take the opportunity to go talk to other vendors. You never know what partnership opportunities might exist until you explore that option. You may even be able to swap leads and share contacts.

5. Give Stuff Away

Giveaways are a great way to attract people to your booth, but they can also be costly, so make sure you’re getting something tangible in return. Any contests and promotions you’re running should require attendees to give you their contact information. Ideas for giveaways could include small, low-cost promotional items like pens, notepads, or refreshments to get people in your booth and interacting with your brand.

Save the higher-quality items to give away in return for people booking a product demo or giving you their email address. You could also offer specials available only to trade show attendees. You can also run a contest or ask visitors to tweet a photo of themselves at your booth to earn these items and gain extra exposure for your brand.

If you choose to do a prize draw, ask for an email address on the entry form. That way you can add the people who enter to a marketing list and engage with them in the future.

6. Engage on Social Media

Most events have a specific hashtag you can use to be a part of the online conversation. Part of your social media content strategy should include posting on social media during the event. Take photos during booth setup, at panels or lectures, and at mixer events and receptions. You can even take a few candid photos of the team to show followers how much you’re enjoying the trade show.

After the Trade Show

1. Follow Up Right Away

Respond to leads as quickly as you can. If it’s possible, you can even set up appointments during the event to get yourself on people’s calendars. There are so many conversations at a trade show that it’s easy for people to forget who they talked to or what you talked about. When you follow up promptly, you keep yourself and your brand top of mind.

2. Write a Recap Article

Write up a recap of the trade show to share highlights (including photos wherever possible) on your website, blog, or social media. You could cover industry developments, exciting new products, and anything else that people would find interesting.

This is informative for anyone who didn’t attend and a good reminder for those who did. If there’s enough material, you can host a webinar discussion with people who were at the show to educate those who weren’t.

3. Update Your Website

Pay attention to what people said at the trade show. If you noticed that people kept bringing up certain questions about your products or services, add these to your website as an FAQ section. You can also craft a blog post with these questions and their answers.

Want to make your next trade show a success? Download our handy checklist to keep yourself on track. If you’re looking for help to make your trade show display stand out from the crowd, give us a shout!

Download Checklist


Sarah Marsh

Marketing strategist Sarah has an analytical mind that loves solving the complexities of marketing, particularly in the life sciences industry.

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