Moments that matter: Trade Show 101

Great for bringing businesses together, adding a soupçon of inspiration, a dash of new ideas, and yes doing profitable deals.

They're straightforward and can deliver exceptional value when planned carefully and implemented well, delivering everything needed for a profitable event. This article offers an insight into the stages involved that you can use as a check-list to make those moments at a trade show matter.

Often considered a local market for businesses where, instead of consumers, buyers just turn up and buy. This article debunks that myth and shows what tasks are required to make trade shows effective.

Thank you for coming

A lot of hard work and planning goes into making those few hours successful. Sadly there are a minority who haven't been able to prepare sufficiently, for whatever reason, and all those visitors stride briskly past leaving them perplexed and under-performing. If they're lucky a few stragglers will drop buy out of curiosity.

Tom Fishborne of the Marketoonist nails it with his cartoon about viral marketing. Tom has exceptional insight, and it's a great read so I'll be patient if you would like to read it. Thanks for coming back, great insight and I hope you agree it’s not about any one piece of content; it’s about building a relationship with an audience over time.

Planning and preparation

With opportunities condensed into a few hours, it's important to carry out research to ensure products and services are aligned with your strategy, identify with your target prospects and how their needs will be addressed. It's essential to ensure you know what you're selling, to whom, what you want to get from your prospects, and what they will take away. With all those items identified, what follows are some essential objectives ensuring a successful show.

Resource planning is essential to match the most appropriate balance of people, even if everyone is just you! Contingencies are essential ensuring mistakes and omissions are reduced keeping any impact to a minimum.


It's essential to understand trade shows from the buyers perspective. Buyers are, like everyone else, hard pressed with too much to do in a limited time-frame. Often having planned itineraries with clear objectives, it's imperative to get included and near the top of their list, and when they arrive their visit must be memorable.

As it's essential to resonate with your audience, you'll probably find segmentation a key process to identify and target them. Once you've clearly identified your target audience and positioned your products and services to address their needs, it's much easier to design the props and processes to reach out to your prospects.

Fortunately there are many opportunities including social media, mail shots, trade press, and advertising, all ready to help get your message out.  Add a few niceties for example new products, demonstrations, or even meeting you to ask questions, and your visitors will seek you out.

Leave a good trail and make yourself the destination

Social media is your friend, it's free, plus compelling articles are likely to be shared to amplify and extend your reach. Visitors will flock to the stand with the most buzz and largest audience; the more you invite, the larger your visitor numbers, it's a win-win scenario.

Sales strategy

Ok, you may prefer to generate leads rather than 'sell', but you need to be clear about your objectives and how to achieve them. This means clearly listing your objectives, and how you, your props and processes will deliver them.

Each show, like the businesses that present at these venues are all different and targeting different aspects for their customers. Your strategy will guide and inform how these buyers are enticed to visit your stand; no mean feat getting someone to leave their desk and heavy workload plus missed opportunities to visit and say hello; buyers are expecting you to be offering them something exceptional.

Sales techniques are outside the scope of this article as are product design, position and pricing, but as any missed sale is a lost opportunity, it's essential to ensure the highest possible conversion rate and ensure you get everything you need from your visitors and they leave with everything you want them to take away.

Visual design

With fierce competition and many distractions, it's both important to stand out from the crowd and get your message across to your target audiences. With a clear strategy for success, time and money invested in design will be well spent ensuring your messages are appealing, clearly communicated, memorable, and most importantly support all your efforts before, after and during the event.

With a clear brief, your visual designer can ensure you are easily identified, your backdrop images and leaflets will entice your audience in, identify you, promote your products/services, and leave a compelling and lasting memory that helps close your deals. Every touch point is an opportunity, branding is cumulative so ensuring all touch points including emails, business cards and websites are co-ordinated effortlessly reinforces your message.

Simple tips:

  • Would you like them to follow your website/ facebook, twitter profile? Try a QR code and make it easier to follow you.
  • Your contact details? Scan a QR code and they have you in their smartphone!
  • Add your message and logo to your email footer, it'll reinforce every message you send out.

The moment that matters

When you meet, that's the moment that matters, your sales/marketing team will have prepared for it, props, processes and patter will be ready and practised, visitors may have done their prep too before they arrive.

Then it happens, those moments that matter, your visitors arrive, new faces and existing ones, you make the most of each others time, swapping contact details, closing deals, arranging follow ups, then part having got out what each of you wanted.  You have more customers to see, and they have more exhibitors, so it's imperative that this moment is effective.

Make the most of every opportunity!

Be kind: Neighbours can take turns watching each others stand whilst wandering for a few minutes during a lull, perhaps saying thank you with a cake and coffee as you share experiences and learn from each other.

Above all, have fun!


Keeping promises and follow-up is essential. Delivering on promises, reminding everyone about what was achieved from the event, reassuring, closing deals, repeat business, whatever the strategy planned for. Remember, trade shows are for long term relationships, not just for the day.

Try and measure everything you do. Some things work better than others, with analysis from your own efforts and feedback from fellow exhibitors the next time will build on your successes.

And finally

All touch points and interactions are important, prepare, practice and enjoy.

By understanding which interactions support your main objectives and why, it's easier to focus on and deliver those moments that matter. Above all, have fun!

By Alan Hicks