5 Key Factors for a Successful Trade Show

As small business owners, preparing for a trade show can be very scary and frustrating.  Many wonder what do we take for the trade show display and how do we present it.    What if no one comes to my booth?  How do I know if what I did was right?  Here are a few tips to help you so you’re not disappointed in your next trade show experience. 

Pre-Show Prep

Two good reasons to participate in a trade show are lead generation and awareness. Are you wanting a return on your financial investment or a return on your objective where sales might not be immediately closed?  Either way, set objectives! 

Don’t forget to use social media to let your customers know that you are participating in a trade show and invite them to stop by and visit.


Your booth is an extension of your other advertising, your overall strategy.  Consistency creates credibility. Your exhibit conveys your company’s personality.  Don’t take the emotional connection you can create from your booth lightly.  Put people in the mood you want with the shapes, materials and colors that you use in your display. 

Think billboard not bulletin board when setting up your display.  Is your company’s name apparent in 1 second from 30 feet away?  Less is definitely more in trade show copy. Have a focal point and have a key message that communicates a significant benefit to your prospect.  

Keep your space open and clean.  Especially with the importance of social distancing.  Remove roadblocks and furnishings that could result in attendees gathering too closely.  Regularly clean the surfaces and space inside your area. 

Keep it welcoming and friendly.  Leaving the center of your exhibit open will increase traffic by 25%.  We drive on the right side of the road, that’s also how we walk around a trade show.  Allow prospects to follow set traffic patterns and approach the displays without your interference.  No need to guard your booth, be an open observer.

Avoid the grab-and-run effect by just setting out a couple copies of your sales pieces– this is more likely to create a request from the visitor.  80-90% Of literature gets thrown away. 


It takes 3 ½ seconds to walk the 10-feet in front of your booth.  What will you do to get their attention in so little time?  Give people an incentive to visit your booth.  They may not have time to visit every booth.  Pique their curiosity with a premium item that’s designed to promote or increase recognition of your company.  Use your giveaways as a show of appreciation or thank-you for sharing qualifying info about their need.  If you serve food, use plexiglass barriers where appropriate.  Hand your food samples out, don’t allow for touching displayed food.

You may want to hold a drawing to pique interest and get people into your space.  This gets you a database, too.  Use touchless (electronic and digital) alternatives for engagement with booth visitors.  Text in to win or scan a QR code.  Use the mailing list and tell those who didn’t win the first prize they did win an unannounced second prize!  The second prize could be a discount, added bonus or anything else that has a high perceived value and a low cost.


The most critical aspect of your exhibit is its people.  Your image does not stop with an elaborate display, fancy advertising, or impressive brochures.  They help, but it’s the people who sell your company and its products and services.  It’s the staff who make or break future relationships with attendees.  Your staff must be aware of why your company is there and what their purpose is in helping you.

Follow up

Follow up on your leads and do it fast.  80% Of leads are not followed up on.  The longer you wait the colder the lead becomes. 

Be different, be unique but make sure your trade show strategy harmonizes with your brand and image. Don’t go big and extravagant if it doesn’t have a purpose.  It’s not always the biggest set-ups that have the most success.  Many time’s it’s those with a thought-out marketing campaign. You have a chance to have hundreds of people who are interested in what you sell walk by your “front door”.  Take plenty of time to prepare and put your full effort into it. It’s a big investment. Make it worth it.

If you want help with a strategy for your business, give us a click.


Cedric Friesen

Husband, Dad, Boss, Leader, Fan. Cedric enjoys serving with the Kiwanis Club and on the board of the Hunger Task Force. He’s also been involved with numerous charity events and fundraisers through Mid-West Family. He’s true to Minnesota sports teams and tolerates most Wisconsin teams. When it comes to business Cedric loves win win win situations!

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