Making the Most of Your Trade Shows

If your company participates in trade shows, you may be feeling some pressure to reduce your trade show budget. Most companies are carefully evaluating their trade show participation to identify the most important shows to attend.

Preparations for a trade show can quickly get out of hand. When you consider travel, accommodations, meals, booth space, graphics, drayage, promotions, and shipping it’s easy to see how costs can skyrocket. If you have a large sales staff and the trade show venue is a popular city (i.e. Las Vegas), it can be difficult to corral your team and make the most of your trade show experience.

Proper Planning

Proper planning means that you begin preparations for the trade show as early as possible. Booking flights and accommodations in advance will help to ensure the best prices. Nearly all trade show organizers offer discounted rates for early registration, booth space reservation and drayage. Having your marketing materials and trade show graphics ready with plenty of time for printing and shipping will eliminate rush fees.


Most trade show attendees arrive at the venue with a plan to maximize their time. This means that unless they are already planning to meet with you, it will be difficult to compete for their attention once they are on the trade show floor. Be proactive and send out a pre-show mailer (either print or electronic) to capture their attention and get on their schedule before they arrive.

After the show, most attendees will return to their office and will immediately be inundated with the work they missed while they were gone. They will, at least temporarily, forget what they discussed with you during a meeting or on the trade show floor. Although they will need this time to recover from the trade show, it is a good practice to follow up with them shortly after they return from the show. This follow up can be a phone call, email, etc. as long as it reminds them of the positive interaction they had with your company.


Everyone loves to get things for free. Be cautious about openly displaying your promotional products at your trade show booth. This invites people to your booth for the wrong reasons and contributes to unnecessary trade show costs. Keep your promotional products hidden and only give them to your customers and prospects once they’ve mingled with your booth staff. This approach will also increase the perceived value of the gift and make your customer/prospect feel special.

A common mistake for your booth staff is that they will likely try to give away all of the product literature you have shipped to the show. Not only does it mean that there is less to pack up and ship back to the office, but they likely feel that distributing all of the available literature proves the success of the show.

When passing out literature on the trade show floor, think about how much literature is tossed in the garbage when attendees pack up to go home. Printed literature is heavy and is low on the priority list compared to their personal belongings, souvenirs, and freebies. A better option is to get the attendee’s information and ship the literature directly to their office.


Carefully considering your trade show expenses and advanced planning will not only save a considerable amount of money, but will also make your trade shows more successful.