Tradeshows are a big business, but ironically most businesses don’t benefit from tradeshows simply because tradeshow marketers tend to lack strategy and focus with their exhibits. Exhibitors also treat attendees bluntly, corralling them to a scripted 30 second speech on why they’re so great. Step one to not failing at your next tradeshow includes respecting attendees. Attendees aren’t there for you; you’re there for them. So rather than acting like a stuffed pork chop ripening with product arrogance, why not consider a more humble approach?

Start by treating attendees like they’re your guests. Would you burden guests with a sales pitch and zero entertainment? I can guarantee that attendees aren’t interested in generic promotional material that exhibits try and bait them with. Attendees are however interested in being captivated. So captivate them by integrating some of these tips into your next tradeshow booth. Since it takes time to cultivate a great exhibit, take the time by getting started at least three months before the event.

Set Your Parameters – The death of any exhibit is a total lack of focus. Just setting up shop doesn’t cut it; no one is interested in your booth’s presence. What attendees are interested in is quick information and value. What draws them in first though is presentation. You’ll trim the fat by creating a tradeshow checklist. Consider your goals, who you want to attract and who you want to network with. Do you have a sales or leads goal? What type of leads do you want to get? How are you going to get them and follow up?

Think Beyond the Event – If your tradeshow lasts two days or more, you should really consider taking advantage of the duration by cultivating an opportunity to reconnect and meet outside of your work environment. If you have the budget and are part of a larger company, consider hosting an after event cocktail hour or mixers. Smaller businesses can create an invitation to meet for appetizers or dinners. Your booth should advertise this meet up and allow attendees to check in via a Facebook event or request a text message reminder.

Reach a Wider Audience – You’ve probably seen seminars and conferences webcast their event. Why not do the same with your tradeshow? Treat your event like a news feed covering the engagement throughout the day, or live coverage of key events. You can simply tape the footage, edit and then share it as a video. In addition to expanding reach and visibility, both live feeds and video can also be shared on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Take the Hospitality Approach – Take a cue from the hospitality industry and don’t treat attendees like prospective clients. Instead, refer to them as guests. The terminology shift will work wonders with your team and put them in the right frame of mind to serve rather than be served – and great customer service is always about service.

Survey Says – Allow guests to enter a drawing for something great like an iPad by filling out a small form that includes their contact data (or attach a business card) on a sheet that asks something basic like “name three things you liked and disliked about our booth.” Not only is it potentially rewarding guests, but it also gives you stellar insight into your booth from a guest’s perspective (and gives you their contact info). You can also include a quick disclaimer saying how submission gives permission to add them to an email list. If you’re tech savvy, all this will be done on a computer or (better yet) an iPad.

Promotional Giveaways – Always be giving something away. Emphasize brand building and develop a custom promotional giveaway themed around your brand. Giveaways should be kept out of reach so they’re not grabbed by passersby or disinterested attendees. Anything you give away should be treated as a gift you’re parting with and should work to reinforce the relationship your agent has just cultivated with a guest. If you’re stuck on ideas or strapped for extra cash to invest in giveaways, there’s always the option of gift cards for your products or services. Of course, this depends entirely on whether your business has something that’s desirable and easy to give away.


by Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Benchmark Email's Online Marketing Specialist and Small Business Advocate. An Orange County based writer, Shireen specializes in online marketing and public relations. She has written for over 75 publications and has launched nine successful new media campaigns to date. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Denver Post, the Oklahoman and Green Air Radio, among others.