Making the Most of Trade Shows


Trade shows provide one of the easiest and most effective ways for vendors to meet and greet large numbers of prospective customers in a relatively short period of time. Attending a national trade show can put you face-to-face with literally hundreds of visitors each day, more than you could ever realistically reach through traditional sales calls. And, because most visitors are in the market for exactly the kinds of products or services you offer, the value of those contacts is incalculable. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of tradeshow attendees ranked them as an "extremely useful" source of information when considering a product purchase -- higher than any other source, including onsite visits from sales reps.

But, like anything else in the business world, tradeshow success is an art. Luckily, it's one you can learn to master with a little preparation and knowledge.

Pre-Show Promotion

Did you know most tradeshow attendees actually create a list of which booths and exhibits they plan to visit, even before they've set foot in the door? The right pre-show promotion can ensure your booth gets on many of those lists, driving visitors to your booth throughout the day.

One possible game plan for getting the word out prior to the show is to send postcards to your suppliers, prospects, and existing customers, as well as other exhibitors planning to attend the show. Contacting a targeted list of industry prospects whose offices are local to the tradeshow location is another good strategy. You might also consider advertising in trade journals or in the advance show program, issuing press releases to announce new products or special show promotions, putting stickers promoting the show on all company letters and faxes, including information about the show in your automated email signature, promoting it on your Web page and calling key prospects the week before the show. Make sure any mailings or advertisements mention your booth number so visitors know exactly where to find you.

Including a small company logo gift in your pre-show mailings can be an effective way to make sure your invitation stands out. Imprinted key chains and pens are inexpensive and easy to send. Another possibility is to offer recipients a free gift if they bring your postcard to your booth. Not only is this a great way to drive traffic, it also provides a valuable measure as to the effectiveness of your pre-show mailing.

Trade Show Booth


Trade Show Booth design is one of the most important things to consider as you prepare to head out onto the tradeshow circuit. Your booth is more than just your home base, it's a key tool for communicating with visitors. Your graphics should be both attention grabbing and simple. Resist the temptation to pack your booth with as much information as you can possibly fit. Overloading visitors with text and data can create a confusing message, which can be a turn-off for potential clients. Instead, create a single focal point that communicates the essence of your business. Everything in the booth should somehow reinforce that central idea. Make sure the space is easy to navigate, and that there are no barriers between visitors and your staff.

Crestline carries a wide selection of on the go portable tables, printed trade show table covers with your logo, trade show exhibit displays and more to help you bring together a winning booth design.

Be Prepared!

Make up a kit containing the kind of must-have items that are often overlooked when packing. Possible items to consider might include scissors, extra pens and paper, a highlighter, a stapler and staple remover, first aid supplies, extension cords, light bulbs, extra business cards, including cards for key staff members who won't be in attendance, extra lead forms, and a digital camera. Create a checklist for the kit, and replenish supplies after every show.


Did you know that 90 percent of all literature handed at out tradeshows never makes it back to attendees' offices? While it's important to have enough brochures on-hand for those who request them, offering to mail literature to prospects who express serious interest in your company is a more effective strategy. Not only will you be ensuring that your message isn't simply discarded on the convention room floor, you'll also create a natural opportunity to differentiate yourself from the pack with an easy, no-pressure post-show follow-up.

Promotional Giveaways

Giving away free promotional products imprinted with your company's logo is one of the best ways to generate traffic for your company's tradeshow booth. While other forms of advertising – television commercials, billboards, Online pop-up ads, etc. – are commonly viewed as a nuisance, a well-chosen promotional gift will make prospects remember and think well of, your company every time they use it.

A good strategy is to keep at least two levels of promotional gifts on-hand at a tradeshow – a large quantity of less expensive items for general traffic, and a smaller number of more valuable items, reserved for existing customers and serious prospects.

It's also smart to consider what you hope to accomplish with a particular giveaway. While fun items are great for generating buzz, useful, reusable gifts stay with recipients longer, keeping your company at the forefront of their minds. Items that are related to your industry or a special theme you've chosen for your tradeshow booth will help to draw a stronger connection to your company for your prospects, too.

Crestline has thousands of promotional items available, representing a wide range of price points and product categories, from fun promo items and travel accessories, to printed drinkware, trade show bags, and even food giveaways.


When choosing which staff members to send to a tradeshow, try to strike a balance between those who are the most extroverted and "people-oriented," and those who have the most knowledge about your company's products or services. If some of your staff fall into both categories, your decision is easy. Be sure to train staff on what to expect and how to conduct themselves.

One way to make certain members of your booth staff are easily identifiable is to order corporate dress shirts imprinted with your company's logo. Custom ID badge lanyards or printed retractable badge holders are another easy, and inexpensive, way to identify your team.

Talking to Prospects

It's the moment you've been waiting for. You've made all of the preparations, designed an attractive, attention-grabbing tradeshow display booth, purchased promos that are sure to draw in the crowds, printed the literature, picked the perfect reps to send, and checked and double-checked that you didn't forget a single thing. But unless you and your reps can actually engage visitors and effectively communicate what makes your company special, all of your planning will have been in vain.

Remember that what may be a perfectly effective pitch under normal circumstances could fall flat in the noisy, chaotic environment of a tradeshow. Your competition is all around you, so your chance to rebound from a missed opportunity is slim. The most important rule is to immediately engage your prospect. Start by asking a question that requires more than a one-or-two-word answer, such as what brought them out to the tradeshow or what they know about your company or one of its top-selling products.

Now that you've gotten an attendee to stop and speak with you, it's important to ask some qualifying questions to help determine whether they're really interested in what you've got to offer. Take a minute or two to ask specific questions what their company does and what, specifically, they're looking for during the tradeshow.

Once you've determined that you're talking to a real prospect, and not just someone interested in your free gifts, it's time to move into your pitch. This shouldn't be your standard office call presentation, though. Remember, the energy is high and the environment is distracting at a tradeshow. Keep it concise, and make it memorable. Lay off the pressure, and don't worry about closing in for a sale – save that for after the show. Instead, ask them when would be a good time for a follow-up call. Be specific about what your next step will be. The close of a conversation is a good time to offer the prospect a small promotional gift to help them remember you. Personally handing them the gift, rather than leaving it for them to pick up themselves, makes it more likely they will think of you and your company when they use the item.

Other tips to remember are to maintain your alertness and professionalism at all times. Don't sit down, read, eat, talk on your mobile phone, block the view of your display, or socialize with booth mates or other friends. Such behaviors can be off-putting to prospects and may make them avoid your booth. Never ignore any visitor to your booth, even if you're already engaged with another prospect; try to pull them into the conversation, or at least acknowledge them and ask for their patience. Remember too that appearance counts – you and your staff should strive to dress at the same level or slightly better than the attendees.


As important as good preparation and a solid prospect presentation are for success at a tradeshow, what you do when you get back to the office is even more important. Industry studies suggest that as many as 79% of all leads are never followed up. That's one trend your company can't afford to follow! Don't expect leads to seek you out after the show, no matter how interested they seemed in your company. While it's easy to get overwhelmed by the need to catch up on the work and communications you missed while away, it's critical to be proactive about contacting new prospects before they get cold.

At minimum, everyone who visited your booth should receive a thank you letter or postcard, and their contact information should be added to your prospect database to receive future correspondence. Prospects who seemed genuinely interested in your company deserve a more thorough follow-up, including a personal call from one of your reps. If you train your staff to take detailed notes while talking to visitors during the tradeshow, they'll not only be better equipped to determine which leads should receive the most attention, but will also enable them to personalize each pitch. If you offered to send company literature to prospects during the tradeshow, throwing a handwritten personal note into the envelope is a nice touch, especially if it references something specific discussed with your reps during the show.