Trade shows provide an awesome opportunity to connect with prospective clients and distributors face-to-face, and when done correctly, they are definitely worth the investment. There’s a lot of planning that goes into a successful trade show, and simply showing up won’t cut it. To maximize your ROI, you should develop a clear plan for before, during and after the show. How will you encourage attendees to visit your booth? What do you need in your booth to turn a casual passerby into a client? What are your marketing goals for this trade show and how will you achieve them? Use this Trade Show Playbook to get started.

Halo Brand Solutions

Infographic credit: Halo Branded Solutions



The Trade Show Playbook: How to Run a Winning Trade Show Booth

Running a trade show booth can be an expensive endeavor, but it’s one of the best ways your company can reach new customers and promote your brand face-to-face. Follow this playbook to ensure a great return on your trade show investment.

The Game Plan: Pre-Show

The Goal 

Establish clear, measurable objectives for the trade show, such as:

  • Generating 200 leads/prospects
  • Introducing a new product/service to 100 prospective buyers
  • Upselling 50 existing clients
  • Meeting 25 new distributors, suppliers, and industry contacts

The Playbook

  • Pre-show promotions increase booth traffic by 30%.
  • Use social media to preview promotions or contests.
  • Send email and direct mail invites to specific targets.
  • Offer a promotional product to visitors who mention your invite.

76% of trade show attendees plan their booth visits in advance.

The Team

  • Your booth staff should be well-versed on:
  • Your company’s mission and products/services
  • The company’s trade show goals and their role in achieving them
  • Your company’s value proposition
  • Prospective customers and their needs

The Uniform

The Booth staff’s apparel should match your company’s brand image. Is your brand best represented to this audience with performance athletic apparel, branded polos and khakis, or suits and ties?

  • Choose a professional and coordinated look.
  • Incorporate company logos and colors.
  • Consider what will work for both men and women booth staff.

The Water Boy

  • Schedule breaks away from the booth where staff can rest.
  • Bring water and snacks to spend less on expensive convention center refreshments.

Game Time – At the Trade Show

The Playing Field: Design displays that quickly articulate your company’s product/service and provide a compelling reason for the prospect to stop in.

o   Food, drinks and branded giveaways

o   Interactive touchscreens (if you’ll have strong WI-FI)

o   Fatigue-reducing carpet pads

The average attendee spends 8.3 hours visiting show exhibits.

The Fans

Know your audience: Who’s attending the trade show? Why are they attending?

How can you best engage and help them? Partner with expo hosts to get the previous year’s visitor data to better target your exhibiting strategy.

  • 78% of trade show visitors travel more than 400 miles to attend the show.
  • 46% of attendees have executive or upper management positions at their companies.

The Game: Generate buzz to drive visitors to your booth.

  • Host games and contests for giveaways.
  • Offer time-limited discounts to attendees.
  • Give away a unique or useful promotional product that they’ll ctually want to keep.
  • Use a show-specific hashtag and give reasons to use it.

Post-Game Conference: Post-Show

The Handshake

  • 80% of exhibitors do nothing to follow up with prospects after a show.
  • Your team should:
  • Contact the most qualified leads within 1 to 2 weeks of the show.
  • Send personalized thank-you notes.
  • Send out promotions and offer post-show savings.

The Team Meeting

To what extend did you succeed in reaching your goals?

What would you do differently at the next trade show?

Did you have positive ROI? Indicators of success for pre-show goals:

  • Generating/leads/prospects?  Look at quantity of new contacts.
  • Showcasing a new product/service? Look for positive feedback in audience surveys and media coverage.
  • Selling to existing customers? Check revenue from upsells and cross-sells.
  • Meeting new distributors? Count the number of new partnerships you established.

Having a clear, measurable plan to guide you through all three phases – pre-show, trade show and post-show – will help you get the most bang for your trade show buck.


Gene Friedman
Live Chat Software