Trade Show Exhibitions 101

Thank you, Paulette Morris, for your contribution to our blog and your knowledge of “Trade Shows.”

Trade Show exhibiting is a great way for businesses and organizations to showcase products and services. Planning and setting realistic goals is the key to a successful event. Here is a collection of useful tips for working your next Trade Show.

Trade Show booth

Get the Facts before the Show

Who might attend? How many visitors are expected, do they reside in your service area? Be aware of the dates, hours and the cost. Most shows will provide a table, tablecloth (curtain for booths) and a small sign with your business name. The 3 main categories of the show include: 1) booth: an example would be an   8 x 10 space, although a corner booth can provide added exposure for just a bit more; 2) tabletop (table only) and 3) small group space to include client’s office, your office, rental space or a meeting room. If you plan on selling your products, please check with management ahead of time for rules. Perhaps your goal is to make good connections and follow up after the trade show. TIP – Please do not let “no selling” discourage you. Trade shows offer a great opportunity for new prospects and connections that open doors for future business.

Planning and Setting Goals

What do you wish to accomplish? Are you prospecting for new clients, showcasing new products and services or both?

Theme…Is it Necessary

If the show has a theme…DO PARTICIPATE! Holiday or seasonal themes are great or you can choose a theme that relates to your business. TIP – Please do not let the theme overpower your message or image.

Pre-Show Advertising

Make the most of your Trade Show investment by getting the word out. Use mail, email, social media, or your blog, etc. Invite fellow exhibitors; (If possible, obtain a list from show management.) Advertise in the newspaper, membership organizations, and networking groups. TIP - Advertise your show date on outgoing mail & emails.

Create an Inviting and Informative Booth or Space

Choose the literature and/or imprinted products you wish to hand out to visitors. Help visitors and prospects to remember you by having your business or organization name on everything you hand out at the show. Your table display should give someone a quick snap shot of your products and/or services when they are standing in front of your booth. Door Prize Drawings and/or Games can create excitement and increase traffic to your booth. TIP - Use the back of door prize slips to take notes, wants & needs of prospects for easy follow up after the show.

Greet each visitor with a smile!

Meet and Greet a Variety of Visitors

Position your table and materials for visitors in various areas of your space to accommodate multiple types of visitors and at the same time preventing traffic jams in your booth. (Some may want to just pick up info quickly & others may linger longer.) TIP – position the “Door Prize” drawing on one side of your table and handouts on the other side. Chat with visitors while they are filling out the form. Don’t forget to bring your tools; pens, small clipboard/or writing surface, business cards, calculator, planner, emergency kit for making quick repairs to your display, if needed. Wear a name tag.

Games and prizes

Trade Show Etiquette and Networking Essentials

Please mind your manners…booth displays or games should never be disruptive to neighboring exhibitors. Be sure to greet everyone who steps into your space. TIP - If you are already chatting with another prospect when a new person steps up to your booth, a quick hello and smile will make them feel welcome to browse.

Please visit other booths, but be ready to “clear out” when they have visitors. Eat lunch away from your table (a drink is good to maintain your voice). If you do not have additional staffing, consider the buddy system with a neighboring exhibitor who may also need a break. Prepare an “Exhibitor Packet” to hand out to your fellow associates.

Respect the show “Break-Down” schedule. Leaving early may be disruptive to other exhibitors. Please check with your show coordinator regarding rules for early departure.

After the Show

Follow up…mail, email, telephone, face-to-face…DO IT!!! TIP: Don’t forget to include fellow exhibitors if they would be good prospects. 


Set several dates for tracking show success: 2 weeks, 2 months, etc… Determine how much business was gained by the show. Were your expectations met? Make notes while your memory is fresh for the “next time”.

Trade show exhibiting is hard work, but with proper planning and organization, it will be well worth the effort. Wear comfortable shoes (after all, it is a work day). Wear your Best Smile and enjoy the show!

Idea Weaver

Idea Weaver Promotions, Inc.                                                                   410.360.8882                                                                                                          

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