Trade Show Exhibit PerformanceBy Candy Adams, The Booth Mom®

Why are you exhibiting?

It's a tough question, but it's one you need to ask yourself. And when the trade show's over, what do you want to have accomplished with your exhibit presence? It seems safe to say we all want to be able to say "Wow! This show was successful!"

If you're like most trade show exhibitors, you miss the important first step of, as I call it,"starting at the end result." And, to make matters worse, you don't have concrete metrics in place to measure show performance. 

This doesn't have to be the case. Let me share my process:

1. Decide exactly why you're exhibiting.

The most common reasons exhibitors give are to measure show performance:

  • Generate qualified leads to convert to future sales
  • Increase awareness of products/services
  • Enhance company brand
  • Interact and build relationships with new prospects and existing customers
  • Educate attendees
  • Generate positive press/media coverage
  • Create/strengthen relationships/partnerships
  • Recruit new employees

Stay focused on your reasons and prioritize your efforts and budget on those that are most important to you. This will generate the best results and ultimately the greatest value for your exhibit investment.

2. Set strategic goals and objectives based on why you're exhibiting (No. 1). 

Segment your exhibiting goals into four distinct types of show activities. The activities will create:

  • Lead generation and sales conversion
  • Interaction and relationship-building with your target audience, including clients, prospects, and partners
  • Awareness of your corporate brand, image and products or services
  • Improved relations with press/media/industry analysts and influencers

3. Break down the broad-brush goals from No. 2 into specific, quantifiable tactics you'll use to reach them. 

Examples include number of pre-show promotional impressions to your target audience, frequency of social media posts, number of attendees participating in educational demonstrations, and number of pre-set meetings with existing customers. And remember, be realistic with your estimates.

4. Determine the resources you'll need to support these tactics. 

What exhibit properties, equipment, promotions, staff, budget and timeline will you need? How many badge scanners, meeting rooms, demo stations, or theater presentations will it take to reach these goals? How many staff members will you need onsite to interact with visitors, support press briefings and demos, produce live social media, and hold pre-set prospect and customer meetings?

5. Decide exactly how you're going to measure the success of each tactic. 

Get buy-in from management and stakeholders, determine when the data to support the metrics will be available, and assign responsibility for the measurement and reporting to the proper stakeholders. Then set a realistic date for an executive post-show report and review.

The 3Rs

I use the 3 Rs as my basic yardstick for exhibit performance measurement. They are:

  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Return on Objective (ROO)
  • Return on Relationship (ROR)

ROI was the original exhibit performance measurement technique, determining the amount of trackable revenue attributed to or incrementally generated by trade show activities. Generally, measurement of ROI is quantitative and sales-oriented, such as calculating the cost per interaction, cost per lead, cost per qualified lead, cost per sale, or average sales revenue generated by the trade show activity divided by the cost of exhibiting.

ROO measures the achievement and benefit of pre-determined non-financial exhibit marketing objectives and their potential effect on future sales. These are often the fuzzier, harder-to-measure outcomes of your company’s marketing campaigns, such as corporate image, product awareness, brand favorability, media and press relations, and audience education and perception. But ROO enables marketing teams to prove the impact of their efforts when it’s neither possible nor realistic to tie them directly to sales. Measurement of ROO goals can be both quantitative and qualitative.

ROR is determined by measuring the cost and value of enhancing your company’s relationship with current and past customers and influencers. It’s the value ‒ both perceived and real ‒ that is accrued due to nurturing a relationship that accrues over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing. ROR takes into account the incremental sales caused by the client’s visit to the exhibit to renew their relationship and keep informed of what’s new – and better – with your product through incremental sales, product replacement and upgrades.

Focusing on your specific exhibiting goals and objectives, using all show opportunities to reach them, and measuring your performance – with post-show follow-up including recommendations to improve future shows – will assure your exhibit’s success!

Candy Adams, CTSM | CEM | CMP | CMM, affectionately known throughout the trade show industry as “The Booth Mom®” for sharing her expertise and experience with rookie exhibitors, is the definitive source for exhibiting best practices. With 25+ years’ experience as an exhibit project manager, 450+ shows under her belt, 20+ years as EXHIBITOR Magazine’s award-winning columnist penning “Exhibiting 101” and conference faculty member for EXHIBITORLIVE, she's the go-to guru for exhibit management. Candy provides hands-on freelance exhibit project management, consulting and exhibit staff training to companies without a dedicated in-house exhibit manager through her company, Trade Show Consulting. Learn more about Candy at:

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