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Making the Most of Your Trade Show Experience - Part 1: Pre-Planning

Trade show success is about more than just showing up. Getting the most out of your time and expense begins long before the kick-off reception. Here is the first in a multi-part series about how to maximize your trade show experience. Part 1: Pre-Planning.

Is this the right trade show? Making sure you are investing your time and money in the right event is vital to your success. If you have never attended a particular show before, ask the planning organization to send you an attendee list from last year’s event or to give you the demographic breakdown of attendees to see if it matches up with your products/services. Ask someone who has displayed in the past to describe the event and the attendees to you. If you are not sure, see if you can attend with another partner organization or as a non-vendor attendee for the first time so you can feel it out. Ask your customers what shows they generally attend – this will give you a good sense of where to find similar leads.

Plan your goals. What are you hoping to get out of the show? Be realistic. Consider setting measurable goals that are completely in your control – examples: 1) Get 20 new business prospects and their contact information 2) Set up 5 meetings with prospects you’ve been cultivating already.

Are there speaking opportunities? Contact the planning organization and see if there is an opportunity to give a vendor presentation. Whether you have 20 people in attendance at a breakout session or land a keynote slot – your organization, ideas and products will have extra exposure. Speaking is also a chance to build your personal brand. BONUS: your topic, name and company are read in the program by every attendee whether they come to your presentation or not.

Is your company looking for publicity? One way to drum up media coverage is to schedule activities around your trade show attendance. Research relevant publications and make plans to send timely press releases. A key to getting coverage: make it newsworthy. Consider inviting the media to an onsite press event to debut a new product or service. Don’t forget to include industry bloggers and non-traditional media outfits.

Consider a sponsorship. This can be a great way to get your organization noticed by customers. Supporting industry associations is good will that will be remembered by Board Members and customers. See what perks come as a sponsor: Better booth placement? Signage? VIP receptions? Make sure to take advantage of whatever benefits come with your sponsorship. NOTE: A sponsorship is also a way to have a presence at a trade show even if you cannot physically be there. It can be a very cost effective way to make a splash on a budget.

What do you do as part of your pre-planning for a great trade show? I would love to know what other trade show professionals are doing to maximize their experience.



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Rebecca Wyhof is the President of Blue Roof Strategies, a boutique communications firm for companies and nonprofit organizations. For more about Blue Roof Strategies and to learn how they can help you achieve your goals, visit:

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