Top 10 exhibiting tipsBy Candy Adams, The Booth Mom®

Wondering how to plan your exhibit program to maximize your show results? Here are 10 simple tips everyone can follow.

1. Know your audience and focus your message on their needs.

  • Who is your “perfect prospect” at this show, and what are their current problems?
  • Ask show management for statistics regarding number of anticipated attendees, and historical data on job titles, purchasing influence, company size or sales volume, and budgets.

2. Identify and prioritize the top three reasons why you are going to each trade show.   

  • To gather sales leads
  • To promote new products
  • To enhance your corporate image or corporate message (branding/awareness)
  • To educate your audience regarding your products or services
  • To cement existing client relationships
  • To conduct business meetings
  • To obtain press/media coverage
  • To identify and recruit new distributors/dealers
  • To perform competitive and market research
  • To attend educational sessions

3. Set strategic, measurable show goals and objectives.

  • Your goals and objectives should mesh with your corporate mission and integrate with your overall strategic marketing plan.
  • Set realistic goals based on show attendance, number of exhibiting hours, exhibit size and staffing, and budget.

4. Identify the products or services you will showcase and determine how you will display or demonstrate them.

  • If you are launching a new product, time is of the essence in completing marketing collateral, training your exhibit staff and actually preparing the product for display or demonstration.
  • If you have a large product line, display only a sample pertinent to your audience’s identified needs.

5. Produce an attractive, uncluttered exhibit consistent with your corporate marketing campaign.

  • Use color, light and movement to attract attendees to your exhibit.
  • Use presentations, demos, or “info-tainment”, and a well-trained exhibit staff to retain attendees and convey your corporate message.
  • Keep your exhibit open and inviting.

6. Use high-impact graphics focusing on your prospects’ needs and wants.

  • The “look” of your graphics should convey your overall marketing strategy and specific show message.
  • Graphics should be large, colorful “visual speed bumps” that communicate your message in 3.5 seconds or the time it takes to walk past a 10’ x 10’ booth space.

7. Promotion – pre-show, at-show, post-show

  • Invite qualified attendees to visit your exhibit. Studies have shown that an exhibitor can double the number of qualified show leads with an effective pre-show and at-show promotional campaign.
  • Plan an integrated promotional strategy for all three timeframes of a trade show: pre-show, at-show, and post-show.
  • Work with show management to obtain a targeted list of pre-registered attendees.  Contact your targeted audience multiple times with compelling messages.
  • Determine on-site promotional opportunities.
  • Pick promotional items that have a high perceived value, will be kept by the attendee and have a tie-in to your message. 
  • Give promotional items only to those who complete a lead form or attend a demonstration or presentation. 

8. Prepare your exhibit staff for “show business.”

Trade shows are a different type of sales venue with specific rules and expectations. Don’t send your exhibit staff to work at your trade show stage unprepared. 

  • Recruit friendly, courteous, enthusiastic, knowledgeable booth staff.           
  • Hold a staff meeting in the booth to introduce the booth captain, PR contacts, and VIPs.

Also review the exhibit layout, lead gathering systems, promotions, presentations, partners, and work schedules.

  • Sponsor a mandatory off-site exhibit staff dinner or breakfast to:

- Share show strategy and goals with exhibit staff.
- Conduct training on new products and services.
- Review good booth etiquette and body language.
- Train staff on how to effectively greet and engage suspects, quickly qualify using open-ended probing questions, demonstrate to prospects, and disengage unqualified attendees.

The most memorable part of an attendee’s exhibit experience is their interaction with your staff!

9. Record all pertinent information on a lead form to facilitate follow-up. 

Plan ahead to determine what pertinent information will be needed for follow-up after the show, including demographic data (from the attendee’s scanned show badge), product interest, role in purchasing process, timeframe to buy, and requested follow-up. 

10. Provide promised follow-up within 72 hours if emailed; 10 business days by regular mail.

About 80 percent of all printed materials gathered by attendees at trade shows are thrown away before they make it back to the office.  Use expensive collateral materials only in post-show follow-up of qualified leads.

Candy Adams was a presenter at the recent CONEXPO-CON/AGG & IFPE exhibitor meeting in Chicago. For more information on Candy Adams, visit