What To Do Before A Trade Show: Exhibitor Tips For Entrepreneurs And Small Business Owners

Trade shows, when done correctly, can be one of the most lucrative ways of earning new business, making new contacts and creating alliances. But to play with the large companies that have million dollar marketing plans, most entrepreneurs need to plan their trade show process. Here are some not-so-common tips to work through before signing up for and attending a trade show as an exhibitor.

List What Needs To Be Accomplished At The Trade Show

Why is being a part of a trade show important to the business? This is the kind of question that needs answering before even considering which trade show to exhibit with. The more specific the needs, the better, because then they can be measured, achieved and added to next year’s list. Some ideas:

  • Checking out the competition;
  • Testing new items, services, ideas or concepts;
  • Connect with difficult to locate customers or business peers;
  • Find sales representatives that can either sell product lines for the business, or connect with to sell their product lines;
  • Create customer recognition for the business name or brand;
  • Meet current and potential customers;
  • Sell products or services;
  • Create a lead-rich mailing list.

Perform A Quick Cost Benefit Analysis Before A Trade Show

A break even analysis is a relatively straightforward process, so there’s no reason for an entrepreneur not to write up a quick one while reviewing trade show options.

Choose The Right Trade Show

One of the most important trade show tips is knowing which ones to take part in. To ensure that the right one makes it to the final cut, ask a lot of questions such as:

  • How many exhibitors have attended in the past? Customers?
  • What is the target market for this specific trade show?
  • How many years has this trade show been held, and in what locations?
  • Are competitors allowed to exhibit at the same event?
  • What publicity and advertising efforts will be made?
  • Is there a list of previous exhibitors to review?

Attend Trade Shows As A Visitor

Before committing to a specific event, try attending in person as a visitor or customer first. See what other exhibitors are doing, and what customers are naturally attracted to. Look at the prime locations and which spaces aren’t desirable because of traffic flow. Investigate what people are selling, if they are making sales at their exhibits, and whether or not contests or draws are affecting interest. Finally, which informational packages are drawing the most attention, and how are other competing businesses presenting themselves physically (clothing, grooming, sales people), visually (signs, shows), and emotionally (tone of voice, type of presentation).


Read All Promotional Materials Before A Trade Show

After signing up for the trade show, wait for the promotional materials to be sent: they will likely be lengthy and detailed. Plan to sit down for a few hours to review them all, because trade show paraphernalia can often be overwhelming and a bit confusing. For instance, most trade shows have unionized workers to perform a lot of the menial tasks involved with set up and clean up, so a business owner may not even be allowed to plug in their own computer. Therefore check the fine print, take notes, and call to ask questions where the information isn’t clear.


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