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Keys to Achieving Trade Show Benefits

By Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA

Q: I’m planning a trade show. How can I best partner with exhibitors to ensure we’re both successful?
A: First, understand that the person who completed the trade show agreement is not likely the person who will set up the display or staff the booth.

Identify and communicate with key players early to ensure they’re leveraging activation opportunities before, during and after the show. Following is an exhibitor success guide to serve your organization’s needs.

1. Set goals. Establish realistic, measurable goals (e.g., number of booth visitors, meetings scheduled or qualified leads obtained).
2. Train. Ensure new exhibit personnel know what to expect on the show floor.
3. Promote. Leverage print/online advertising, as well as your company’s website/blog and email signatures. Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
4. Reach out. Contact expo/trade show attendees, current/past customers, prospects and VIP clients.

1. Be dynamic. Ensure booth staffing aligns with your goals, and staff your booth with approachable, friendly people. Put away distracting devices such as cell phones.
2. Stand up. Rarely do people have much success sitting down while prospects walk by.
3. Engage. Quickly engage and qualify prospects that stop by your booth.
4. Look good. Ensure your exhibit space is comfortable and pleasing to the eye.
5. Promote. Use techniques that attract attendees to your exhibit space (e.g., product- or solution-related demonstrations). Disseminate an informational card or purchase a promotional item that references your website.
6. Nosh. Serve approved food and beverages to drive additional traffic to your booth.
7. Play games. Consider hosting an interactive game at your booth to promote fun and intrigue.
8. Host drawings. Raffle a prize to those who share their contact information with you.
9. Meet one-on-one. Host individual appointments with attendees in your booth or someplace quiet near the exhibit hall.
10. State your message, then strategize. Succinctly inform attendees what you do and how you can help them. Instead of delivering a sales pitch, have a conversation with attendees about their current challenges.

1. Follow up. Deliver personal emails within 24 hours. Consider inviting prospects to coffee or sending them a postcard with a special tradeshow discount.
2. Re-evaluate. Determine what worked and what didn’t. Use this opportunity to begin planning for the next show.
3. Activate. Exhibiting once a year does little to build trust and loyalty. Identify additional opportunities to sponsor, exhibit or advertise.


Email your questions to Coach Aaron at; please write “Meetings Mag” in the subject line.

Aaron Wolowiec is founder and president of Event Garde, a Grand Rapids-based professional development consulting firm. Event Garde works with association leaders who want to deliver dynamic, meaningful and compelling education and networking experiences.