• Printed promotional material
  • TV or computer as needed
  • Sample products (for demonstrative purposes)
  • Tool kit, including extension cord, TV or computer cables, tape, pushpins, scissors, and anything else that could be useful




"Exhibiting at any trade show can be a cost-effective way to generate business whether you are a new entrepreneur or have been in business for years. Some exhibitors however, do not experience the success of others. The success of any exhibitor is a direct result of the preparation and execution of a sound marketing plan. The responsibility of the show organizer is to promote the show, secure exhibitors and fill the show with large numbers of visitors. Attracting visitors to YOUR booth and successfully converting those visitors into business is your responsibility and can be problematic without a solid game plan.

How you achieve that begins in the months leading up to the show. The theory of cause equals effect or for every action there is a reaction comes into play when preparing to successfully exhibit at any tradeshow.

Some tradeshow exhibitors seem to think that if they have the biggest booth, the wackiest events and piles of promotional giveaways that they'll draw crowds of buyers to their exhibit. They might draw crowds but they won't necessarily be qualified buyers. It isn’t about having everyone in your booth…it’s about having the right people in your booth.

To make sure that you draw the right people to your booth you need to start promoting long before the show even opens. The most effective tradeshow promotions are two-part promotions -- one part before the show and one part at the show. A target audience is your jumping off point. It can be culled from the pre-registration list and/or your existing client or customer list. Those are the people you want to target. Once you've chosen the target audience to reach before the show, send them a mailing that will draw them to your booth. Remember though, the product needs to tie in with the theme of the mailing which should be consistent with the theme of your at-show promotion.

An example of a pre-trade show promotion that carried a consistent message through to the trade show floor was created by GTE Telephone Operations -- "Innovations Alexander (Graham Bell) Never Dreamed Of." The theme pointed out the new technical developments in products and services at GTE. All of the ad copy, pre-show mailings and at-show displays stressed the "multifaceted" nature of GTE communication products and services. This concept was driven home through the unique gift that GTE prospects and clients received when they visited the booth - a GTE-logoed Dragonfly, a kaleidoscope-type device that used a multifaceted lens to multiply whatever image the viewer was looking at. Promise your targeted prospects a gift to draw them into your booth. You can only see a certain number of people at a show. Rather than assume that the right people are going to come down the aisle, stop in your booth and say 'hi, I want to buy from you’, give them a business reason to come by the booth. That way you reach the people that you're targeting; that you're interested in speaking with and qualifying. The objective of any pre-show mailing should be to get the prospect into your booth for a qualifying dialogue. Just getting them there without getting the opportunity to talk to them doesn't accomplish your goal. An effective pre-show promotional mailing technique is to send your targeted audience part of a gift and then promise them the other part if they stop by your booth at the show. An imprinted calculator case sent out to your target audience prior to the show, with the actual calculator presented to them when they come to your booth certainly works well. Another idea might be to send out an egg timer to a select group of show attendees along with a card asking for a few minutes of their time at the show. On the card you could also indicate that if they give you some time during the show, you'll be happy to present them with a little desk clock after they meet with you. It's important to make sure that the idea of time and the related products fit the consistent marketing message your company is trying to impart. Another idea for a pre-show marketing piece is to send your targeted audience a pocket planner that they can use to schedule appointments while at the show. Send the planner out four to six weeks before the show. Be sneaky and fill in one of the time slots for a visit to your booth; they'll get a kick out of it and chances are be there at the appointed time. If they can't make the appointment they'll usually call to arrange another time. To get the most brand awareness from the recipient you should have the planner imprinted with your company name and logo. If you want it to be a subtle reminder you can have the logo printed inside the cover of the planner.

In addition to sending traditional promotional items in pre-show mailings try sending something that will add even more spark and excitement to your promotion. Use creative packaging for your pre-show mailings, such as tubes that look like sticks of dynamite, paint cans, show bags and more. Inside of these unusual mailing containers put something fun that the recipients can use in an interactive way once they reach your booth. Pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that the recipient can bring to the booth to fit into a puzzle that is set up are pretty neat. If the recipient's piece fits he or she wins a prize. Make sure the prize is a promotional item imprinted with your company name and make sure that it fits the theme of your promotion. Whether you choose interactive booth activities, unusual mailing packages or halves of gifts, pre-show promotions are the most effective way to draw the right attendees to your booth. Plan a pre-show promotion that's right for your company and its show objectives and carry that same promotion through your entire trade show marketing campaign. Whatever you decide make certain that you reach your target audience with your message before they ever reach the trade show floor. One final preshow recommendation…rent a lead tracking system. It is the easiest and most effective means to keep track of the critical contact information of each person that visits your booth. This information will be invaluable post show when the time comes to follow up. Now it’s show time. This is the ever important moment of truth. You’ve put together a great pre show marketing program and you’ve complimented that with a well presented booth. Now comes the real challenge…getting those targeted prospects to buy your product(s) or service(s) or agree to a future contact meeting.

Often staff members manning the booth feel compelled to give a visitor as much information as possible. They fail to engage that visitor in the all important qualifying dialogue; ‘what brings them to the show in the first place and in particular what can you do for them to make their visit worthwhile.’ After all don’t you want to know what percentage of your visitors came as a result of your pre show marketing? Make certain your staff utilize their best listening skills during these all important encounters. The adage – you only get one chance to make a first impression should be top of the mind with your booth personnel.

Many times you will see booth personnel unsure of what to do in the booth. They appear uncomfortable talking to strangers and as a result they end up handing out literature or giveaway items just to appear busy. Literature acts as a barrier to conversation. Inevitably pamphlets and brochures that are uninvited and/or unwanted will be discarded at the first opportunity. The best printed material in the world is no substitute for a friendly tête-à-tête.

Companies often send several representatives to tradeshows to gather competitive and general/specific industry information. These individuals feel compelled to gather at the company booth not only outnumbering visitors but also monopolizing booth personnel’s time which restricts critical visitor interaction. Have strict rules regarding employees visiting the show and insist those not scheduled for booth duty stay clear until their assigned time. Company executives are often the worst offenders.

Phew…4:00 pm on the final day of the show has come and now all that’s left is to pack up, get out of Dodge and get back to normal business…right??? Wrong! Now comes the make or break part. Show leads often take second place to other management activities that occur after being out of the office for a few days. The longer leads are left and not followed up with, the colder and weaker they become. Prior to the show, establish how leads will be handled, set timelines for follow-up and make sales representatives accountable for leads given to them.

The more you know and understand about your performance at shows, the more improvement and fine-tuning can take place for future shows. No two shows are alike. Each has it own idiosyncrasies and obstacles. There is always room for improvement. Invest the time with your staff immediately after each show to evaluate your performance. It pays enormous dividends. Reconvene again 4 weeks after the show to conduct a post mortem on the lead follow ups.

Remember, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it!!"