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Is a Trade Show for You?

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

Are you considering taking part in a trade show for the first time? It can be quite an investment in time and money, so get the answers to the following questions first.
  1. Is the trade show focused?

    You want to make sure it will be attracting your target market. Talk with the people who are putting on the trade show and find out.

  2. Ask the promoters how they plan to promote it.

    Billboards, TV, radio and newspaper ads, trade journals? Make sure its going to be well publicized.

  3. Get the history.

    How many trade shows have they done in the past and how successful were they? They should have numbers to show you.

  4. Get the names of people who have participated in the trade show in the past and make some phone calls.

    You’ll get a lot of un-censored information from actual participants, but do talk to several.

If you decide, from your research, that you want to participate in the show, do the following:

  1. Visit a couple of trade shows to become familiar with what’s going on.

    Observe the displays, how the people work their booths and attract people to come visit, the giveaways, etc. Take a notepad and make notes. Observe what works for you - what makes you approach a certain booth. Is it the display? The person? The way the person is dressed or how they’re standing or sitting?

  2. Plan to work with a partner.

    Running a booth is a two-person proposition, for many reasons. You’ll need relief to take breaks, one of you can walk around meeting other people while the other person staffs the booth, people are more comfortable approaching two people than one. Also your equipment can be cumbersome. One of you can drop the other off at the door for setup and go park the car.

  3. Prepare your booth display and materials.

    You need something eye-catching that can be see from 15-20’ away. There’s whole industry supplying these materials, which include displays, booths, portable trade show exhibits, pop-up displays and exhibit booths in various sized (20’ – 6’), and floor-standing or table-top models. Check them out on the Internet. Here is one: It’s a sizeableinvestment, but you will need to be competitive.

  4. Prepare an ample supply of brochures, flyers and business cards.

  5. Decide your goals.

    Just to meet people, try and close some sales, get names and email addresses, or do your first trade show and learn?

  6. Have some way to capture names, addresses and emails.

    Most of the literature people pick up at booths (or anywhere else) is discarded shortly thereafter. You can have a giveaway, where they drop their business card in a fish bowl, or a sign-up sheet for a free gift.

  7. Prepare your “elevator speech.”

    Many people will only stop by your booth for a minute of two and you need to have prepared quick descriptuions of what you do, what servicesyou offer, or information on a certain product or program you're promoting.

  8. Don’t forget that the other exhibitors are your audience as well.

    They may need your product and services or be in a position to refer you to others. Visit around and network within the show.
Remember that your work is only half done after the trade show is finished. Process after the trade show so you know what went well and why, and what you would do differently in the future.

Then follow up on all your leads. Get the names on your newsletter list, mail out flyers, make the phone calls.

Lastly, analyze the response rate vs. the time and money you put into it. Take into account any residual business you may get. It can take up to 7 “hits” before a person will buy, and you may have made the first “hit” on a large number of people and gotten a lot of exposure.

© Susan Dunn, marketing coach, 2004

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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