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How to Prepare for a Successful Trade Show

Business  -  January 10, 2024

You have a trade show coming up, and you want to make the most of it. Strategic pre-show prep can transform your booth into a lead-generating magnet.

Set Your Goal

First, consider your goal for the trade show. Typical trade show goals are brand awareness, lead generation, or a combination of both. It’s important to establish your goal so you can accurately gauge your success. If your goal is lead generation, you can focus on how many appointments you set up, email addresses you collect, or contacts you make. 

Once your goal is set, you can determine your approach to the trade show. You can take a passive, aggressive, or focused approach.

Determine your Approach

A passive approach positions your booth as a friendly interaction. People can visit the booth, interact with you, and ask questions. You might soft pitch to try and get visitors to schedule a appointments, if that fits your business model, but in general, you’re offering them marketing materials like business cards and promotional items to encourage brand awareness and collecting email addresses and getting marketing consent for future interactions.

An aggressive approach has you more in control of the interaction. You might ask visitors specific kinds of questions to determine if they qualify for a particular promotion or meet the requirements for setting an appointment. You’ll need a clear follow up process, whether it’s manual or automated. Send a nice letter or call after a period of time. Taking good notes and tracking the data on leads and follow ups is important in making the most of these trade shows.

An interactive approach takes a bit more planning, but it’s more novel and flashy. An interactive approach makes use of a game, tool, or challenge that draws people into your booth to participate in something. Your booth could have something big like a wheel people spin to win a prize, or something simple like guessing how many items are in a jar. Get creative, and take inspiration from the kinds of games on the midway at a fair. The most important thing is to come up with an interactive approach that is aligned with your business’s unique value proposition and supports your goal. If people can participate in your interactive game, tool, or challenge without remembering your business name or leaving you their contact information, it’s just a gimmick with no strategy. 

Once you have your goal and you’ve prepared your approach, now you can start focusing on some other essential elements.

Essential Trade Show Elements

  1. Staffing: How many people do you need to staff your booth? Will your staff need any kind of education or training about the business, the trade show, the goal, or the approach to the trade show? Even if you think your staff is fully trained and educated, you probably still want to have a good pre-show kick off to make sure everyone’s goals are aligned.
  2. Booth Setup: Determine your booth set up with consideration to the size and positioning of your location. If your booth is in an indoor space, find out what you are adjacent to and see how you can leverage that to your advantage. If you are outdoors, are you prepared for possible changes in weather conditions, and could you possibly leverage weather to your marketing advantage? Branded water bottles on a hot day or branded ponchos on a rainy day could go a long way. Custom tents for outdoor events, custom table cloths, and custom backdrops reinforce brand awareness while also creating a professional presentation.
  3. Print Merchandise: The marketing materials you have on hand at your booth should make sense for the audience. More isn’t necessarily better. A three panel brochure, a one sheeter, business cards, and other simple items can make a big impact.
  4. Promotional Products: Focus on items that last a long time and are associated with your brand. If you are a construction company, a tape measure with your logo makes sense. Factor in your budget; you don’t want to spend $5 per item on something you’re giving away a few hundred of. Be wary of picking something that is too cheap or no one wants; neither helps, in some cases, it could hurt your brand.

Success is All in the Preparation

The biggest misconception that so many businesses have about attending a trade show is that simply being there is all they need. It’s not enough to just be present. You need a clear goal, a specific approach, trained staff, a well thought out booth, and the right print and promotional materials. Only then can you accurately gauge your performance. Chances are if you prepared for a successful trade show by doing all of the above, you’re in a great position to do even better at the next one.


If you need custom apparel, signage, tents, or promo products for your next trade show, reach out to J&R Marketing.

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