7 tips for success at your first trade show

tradeshowYour product or service has started rolling out, sales are coming in and now it’s time to take the business to the next level. You’re thinking about your options for trade shows in the year ahead and how to create more awareness, meet existing customers and create a few new ones along the way. To maximise your return on investment here are some top tips when planning for your first show.

Go Undercover

I highly recommend going to a few shows first as if you were a genuine attendee/prospective client. Get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Take note of every great stand and why you were drawn to it, the staff members approach and how the product is received by others at the stall. Talk to everyone you meet and take your members off staff who will be working the stall with you.

The Display

You really don’t need to go over the top here, a lot can be done with a little if you get creative and take inspiration from the show you went to check out. Its best to stick to a few simple colours that work well, fit your branding, and are suited to the physcology of your industry. Sturdy tables are a must, and quality roller banners are a great way to grab the attention of passers by. If you’re a product-based business, you can even consider using customized floor displays to bring attention and organization to the products you are showcasing.

Dress Rehearsal

I would set a day aside with your staff to set-up the display you intend on using. This will give you great insight into the time needed and to any niggles that need to be ironed out, such as a stand that is too weak for the load on top of it. Allow everyone to give feedback on the look and practicality. Get some pics for your social media accounts and spread the word that you are going to be there amongst your contacts. This way the brand and the look of the stall is already in people’s minds.

Be Social

As with the tip above, utilising your social channels before the event, using social media during is a great way to raise awareness. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat Stories is a great way to engage with and create more followers whilst capturing potential leads. This sounds gimmicky to some people, but I have seen people execute this well time and time again. It shows character, brand personality, and that trade shows don’t have to be as dull as the grey ceiling.

Be a Good Boy Scout/Girl Guide

Be prepared! You will need plenty of supplies such as duct tape, cable ties, business cards and pens. I recommend everyone to have appropriate clothing, branded polo shirts is always very popular but please make sure they are fitted well and new. Certainly don’t let it down by a pair of sneakers only fit for painting and decorating. Keep your area decluttered and clear from any objects that should be there, like a half eaten apple! Take pride in going the extra mile.


Get to know everybody, especially businesses from other stalls (having that extra duct tape can open many doors). This is a great way to get to know other people in your industry, some people are so cagey around this subject but this should be key in your long term plan. You never know when contracts need to be sub-contracted, a business is for sale or an employee at a rival is branching out and can bring business to you. Recommending a product of a rival that better suits an enquirer goes a long way with credibility. Let people know who you are.

Capturing Leads

Im sure you have had some success and sales directly from the event and subsequent weeks after, but you really can’t gauge your long term ROI on this. You are looking to create lifetime value from all the encounters at the show You need to think about two processes clearly in advance 1) how will we capture potential leads and 2) how will we follow this up. This can be in the form of a sheet taking emails and a newsletter going out, taking business cards and a follow up personalised call/email. Again having all your social channels firing on all cylinders and measuring the analytics is key to check performance. I recommend leaving your details at the first show you went to as attendee to see how other companies are following this up.

I hope these tips help in preparing you for that first show and kickstart the planning process for real business success in 2016.


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