August 2, 2019

15 Tips to Fully Benefit From Trade Shows

6 min

It’s so easy to spend all your money during a trade show when you’re ill prepared. The booth, the accommodations, the food and transportation can get quite costly, especially when travelling abroad. The following simple tips from our own experience will certainly help you get more bang for your buck.


1. Prepare a list of business fairs for your industry.

You should, first of all, identify the main events available on the market that could contribute to your growth. Internally, we collected in an Excel file all the key activities that take place in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. The list is comprised of, amongst others, Americana, Ecosphere and FCM’s Sustainable Communities Conference. For each event, we added a short description of the main goal and the target audiences. You could do the same for your industry.

Tip: You may ask your best clients what fairs they attend to, search the Web or pay close attention to advertised events for your industry.

6–8 Months Prior to the Event

2. Identify your organization’s business development goals.

What is your mission? What steps should you take to reach it? Do you have a project or a program you wish to promote? Those are some good questions to answer in order to choose the right fair. Here are some examples of partial goals that may apply:

  • Develop your market visibility;
  • Launch a new green product;
  • Present your whole offering;
  • Generate prospects;
  • Meet buyers and conclude sales;
  • Seek partners and providers;
  • Assess the competition and the market trends;
  • Get a list of volunteers;
  • Target audience awareness towards stakes.

Those targets can be specified by adding quantitative information (e.g. selling 10,000 hemp shirts for $25 and gaining 2,500 prospects within 3 months).

3. Collect a maximum of information on fairs you’re interested in and choose.

Discuss with organizers to get, amongst other things, a pricing list for booths, the partnership plan, customer base stats, both previously and anticipated visitors and exhibitors’ profiles, and a list of already registered attendees.

Then, select the event(s) that would best suit your goals, and determine if it would be better to attend as a visitor or as an exhibitor. Check out the social networks before making your decision to see the reviews, photos, or marketing put forth by the fairs. Look also for potential grants.

If you decide to attend as an exhibitor, select a strategic place within the expo area, and avoid row ends or any area that may be hard to access or that is less visible. Tip: Book your ticket or your space as early as possible. This would allow you to have better options and sometimes benefit from discounts. This could also mean more visibility through the promotional tools in the event.

4–6 Months Before D-Day

4. Develop your communication plan.

Determine the communication actions you wish to complete before, during and after the fair. Such a plan is quickly made and is essential to coordinate the team efforts. Even if you’re the only one in your business to take care of this, a plan will lift some stress related to advertising. You will know what to do, and how much it will cost you.

Tip: Assess the relevance of banners or any visual element above the booth (such as a banner coming from the ceiling for enhanced and unique visibility).

If marketing is not one of your strengths and you lack the resources, it would be better to hire experts that would be able to guide you.

5. Establishing your plan and your communication tools.

The required tools may be virtual (e.g., blog, newsletter, website, e-mail banner, Facebook posts) or physical (e.g., business cards, brochures, roll ups). In any case, follow your communication axis and take this opportunity to show off your branding. If you are green and you value the environment, consider printing on recycled, FSC certified (Forest Stewardship Council), or seeded paper.

4 Months Before the Fair

6. Build your sales or representing team.

Identify the people who would be in charge of the presentations at your booth. Those people should be comfortable playing this role, preferably be experienced and have an in-depth knowledge of your business. Meet them as a group to discuss the event and the motive of your presence, as well as to provide them with guidelines and facilitating tips. We suggest:

  • To prepare questions in advance to qualify your booth’s visitors (e.g., if you’re selling natural shampoo for children, the first thing to ask would be if they have kids). Give the list of anticipated questions and answers to your representatives;
  • To practise the presentation at the booth with your team. People should feel comfortable talking about your products and services, as well as have them tried by potential clients, if applicable.

This would be the perfect time to address logistics matters (when to get there and leave; where to stay; how to get around, etc.). For this matter, you may have access to sustainable transportation options (walking, biking, carpooling, taking the bus or a taxi), depending on where the event takes place. Don’t forget, there are programs that compensate for your GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions for your travelling. At the agency, we partnered with NatureLab.World to meet the needs of our customers in this regard. If the customer has the necessary budget, we offer double compensation (buy double the carbon credits) to create a positive impact on our climate instead of a neutral impact.

7. Invite your current and potential clients.

Your attendance to the event should be no secret to your clients or prospects. You may use your newsletter or social media platforms to invite them. You will considerably increase your chances to get a busy and profitable booth.

8. Make sure your products and services are readily available.

Having a stock shortage in the middle of a fair is a nightmare. Even though you can quantify the e-mails in order to sell more, this is not a perfect situation. First of all, try to determine the required quantities based on fair-goer statistics. Those numbers can be provided by the organizers. Moreover, validate as much as possible this data with previous attendees.

During the Event

9. Be dynamic, accessible and make a perfect impression.

There’s nothing more “boring” than someone hiding behind the booth, sitting and frowning. Even worse, someone completely ignoring your presence or not even considering you, even though you are interested.

A courteous and friendly approach is a must. Take breaks to avoid tiredness and get replaced by a colleague representative who had the same training as you did.

10. Present a conference or facilitate a related activity.

During a business fair, it is often possible to attend a panel or to give training on a specific topic. This would allow you to stand out and to present yourself as an expert in your field.

11. Set up a contest or give discounts, and collect e-mail addresses.

Give a useful gift to people coming by your booth. It’s a way to thank them for their interest and to help establish a relationship with them. You could also give them samples of your best products, or discounts for your services, in exchange for their e-mail address. Just make sure the gift you’re giving is relevant to your business, and as eco-responsible as possible.

12. Be aware of spies.

Business events are the perfect setups to know more about the competition. What new products have they developed over the last year? How do they present their competitiveness? Your competition may visit your booth without you knowing it and ask too many questions to your representatives. They can sometimes be hard to unveil, so you may want to remain cautious and try to get their contact information, telling them you wish to discuss this further at a later time. This would allow you to figure out who’s standing in front of you!

After the Event

13. Proceed to a debriefing as soon as possible.

Did you reach your goals? Are you happy with the public’s response? Could you have done something differently? Don’t wait too long before assessing the event with your team; better tackle this while it’s fresh on your mind. Consider doing so right after getting back in the office, within two business days after the event.

14. Get in touch with your prospects or clients within five business days.

You may call or send an e-mail to people you’ve met at the event. Think about your sales funnel (conversion funnel), and see where each lead is so you can determine the best approach possible. If you’re using a client relationship software, enter the collected information and follow your clients’ evolution.

15. Maintain the relationships.

Keep maintaining your relationships with your audience beyond the event, as long as this is beneficial for both parties. Even if you don’t do business right away with a good lead, don’t hesitate to contact them again with ideas and relevant content at an appropriate time.

On that note, we wish you a lot of beautiful encounters!