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Tradeshows 101 for SMBs

October 14, 2010

Planning to attend a tradeshow (or several) this year?

Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, here are some tried-and-true tips to making it worth your while.

Before You Go

Get the specs

Find out the exact dimensions of your trade show booth or display table and whether there is wall space for your company sign. Ask if electrical outlets are available and how far away they are.

Ship out

With airline bag fees on the rise, it might make sense to ship your brochures and other presentation materials directly to your hotel. Plus traveling lighter is more fun.

Do pre-show promo

Reports suggest that 65% of attendees pay attention to pre-show promotions and come with a list of exhibits to visit. Get on that list by talking up your booth a month in advance of the show on your website, in newsletters, and to your social media followers. Add your booth number to your email signature (i.e. Meet Ken at Booth 313).

Create a presentation

Run a PowerPoint presentation on your laptop within your booth. That way if you’re busy talking with one booth visitor, others can still learn about your business. One caveat: shows can be loud, so create a presentation that can communicate its message without sound.

While There

Measure for success

Make sure any graphics you hang in your booth start no lower than 36” on the wall so they are still visible when people are standing in front of them.

Shed light on things

Industry research suggests that lighting can increase exhibit awareness by 30-50%. Renting a portable lighting system or using product spotlights can give even a small exhibit extra exposure.

Take note

Everything (and everyone) will be a blur after the show. Jot notes about people you meet and conversations you shared on the back of business cards you collect. It will make your follow-up much easier and more successful.

Wow ‘em with food

Hotel minibars are pricey. Prospects will have you to thank after the show when, back at their room, they can snack on good cookies or candy you handed out at the show. Something that cost you less than a dollar will have a perceived value of five times that.

Offer a prize

Choose a giveaway that complements your business. Have booth visitors drop their business cards into a fish bowl to enter. Add these names to your follow-up contact list.

Take pictures

Photos of your tradeshow booth have many good uses: to fire up colleagues who couldn’t attend, to publicize your event in newsletters or social media, and to give yourself a reference point, noting things you want to change in future years.

After the Show


Have a plan for the week after the show, whether it’s an email specifically crafted for tradeshow attendees or a phone call follow-up with folks you’ve met.

Save receipts

Once you start going to tradeshows you'll undoubtedly need to refer back to past receipts and invoices to figure out what you had to pay for at other shows. And how much things cost. Save yourself time and effort by scanning all of your invoices and receipts and storing them online so you have easy access. Systems like make it easy!

Track results

Make sure you have a way to track results of your show over time. Did leads from that show become paying customers? What other value came from the show (e.g., awareness, support of a partner, etc.) Compare the value versus the cost of the show (see previous step!). This will help determine if the effort is worth it.



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