Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Tradeshow marketing

How AI Can Assist You in Tradeshow Marketing

All right, all right, AI is coming! It’s going to swoop in and change the world. Strike that, it has ALREADY swooped in and changed the world. I’ve been curious about it, and as time marches on, I’ve spent more and more time learning how it can be used and what it can do.

It’s very extensive, but it ain’t the end-all-be-all. Still, with the right approach, AI can be very helpful. It can come up with ideas that you haven’t thought of, and it can help execute those ideas once you firm them up.

Some artist friends hate AI and what it might do (already is doing) to the art world. And I get it. But whether it’s business, art, writing, coding, or investing, AI is yet another tool – if you can learn how to use it correctly. This is what I’ve been trying to figure out, once I got over my initial reservations.

The key, as I see it, is to know WHAT to ask and, perhaps more importantly, HOW to ask it. Details are important, but knowing the broad basis for your beginning inquiry is also important.

This morning, I decided to ask CHAT-GPT “How can a marketer use AI to enhance their trade show marketing efforts?”

Here’s what came back:

Using AI in trade show marketing can offer several advantages for marketers. Here are some ways in which AI can enhance trade show marketing efforts:

Audience targeting: AI can help marketers identify and target the right audience for a trade show. By analyzing vast amounts of data, including demographics, interests, and online behavior, AI algorithms can predict which individuals or companies are most likely to be interested in the products or services showcased at the trade show. This enables marketers to personalize their marketing messages and focus their efforts on reaching the right people.

Lead generation and qualification: AI-powered lead generation tools can automatically collect and analyze data from various sources, such as social media, website interactions, and pre-show registrations. These tools can help marketers identify potential leads and qualify them based on predefined criteria. AI can also assist in lead scoring, prioritizing leads based on their likelihood to convert, enabling marketers to allocate their resources effectively.

Chatbots and virtual assistants: Deploying AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants at trade show booths can improve attendee engagement. These AI systems can answer frequently asked questions, provide information about products or services, and even collect contact information for further follow-up. Chatbots can operate 24/7, ensuring that attendees receive immediate assistance even when booth staff are unavailable.

Predictive analytics: AI algorithms can analyze historical trade show data, market trends, and other relevant information to provide predictive insights. Marketers can use these insights to anticipate attendee behavior, optimize booth layout and design, determine the most effective marketing strategies, and forecast the potential return on investment (ROI) for participating in a specific trade show.

Real-time data analysis: AI can process real-time data gathered from trade show activities, such as social media interactions, mobile app usage, and attendee feedback. By analyzing this data, marketers can gain valuable insights into attendee preferences, sentiment, and engagement levels. This information can be used to adapt marketing strategies on the fly, tailor messaging, and improve the overall trade show experience.

Personalized recommendations: AI algorithms can analyze attendee data and behavior to provide personalized recommendations for products, sessions, or networking opportunities at the trade show. By leveraging this technology, marketers can enhance the attendee experience by offering tailored suggestions that match individual interests and objectives.

It’s important to note that while AI can significantly enhance trade show marketing efforts, it should be used as a tool to augment human expertise, not replace it. Marketers should combine AI capabilities with their domain knowledge and creativity to create compelling experiences that resonate with trade show attendees.

That’s not a bad start. But here’s the fun part. Now you can take each one of those bullet points and ask AI to break it down even further like I did here:

Tell me more about how AI can assist in audience targeting. Give me ten detailed ways that it might work and can be easily implemented.

Certainly! Here are ten detailed ways in which AI can assist in audience targeting for trade show marketing, along with examples of how they can be implemented:

Demographic analysis: AI algorithms can analyze demographic data such as age, gender, location, and occupation to identify the target audience for a trade show. Marketers can use this information to tailor marketing messages and choose the most relevant channels for promotion.

Social media listening: AI-powered tools can monitor social media conversations and analyze keywords, hashtags, and user profiles to understand the interests, preferences, and sentiments of potential attendees. Marketers can use this information to refine their targeting and create content that resonates with their target audience.

Lookalike modeling: AI algorithms can analyze the characteristics of existing customers or trade show attendees and identify similar individuals or companies. Marketers can then target these “lookalike” audiences with their trade show marketing efforts to maximize the chances of attracting the right attendees.

Behavioral analysis: AI can analyze online behavior, such as browsing history, content consumption, and purchase patterns, to gain insights into individual preferences. Marketers can use this information to deliver personalized marketing messages and recommendations to potential attendees.

Predictive analytics for attendee acquisition: AI algorithms can analyze historical trade show data and external data sources to predict which individuals or companies are most likely to attend a particular trade show. Marketers can leverage these predictions to focus their targeting efforts and allocate resources effectively.

Natural language processing (NLP): AI-powered NLP algorithms can analyze written content, such as blog posts, articles, and social media posts, to understand the interests and intentions of potential attendees. Marketers can use this information to create content that aligns with attendee needs and engage them effectively.

Sentiment analysis: AI can analyze social media posts, reviews, and other forms of feedback to determine the sentiment associated with a trade show or its exhibitors. Marketers can identify positive sentiment to leverage as testimonials and address any negative sentiment to improve attendee perception.

Geo-targeting: AI algorithms can analyze geolocation data to identify individuals or companies located in proximity to the trade show venue. Marketers can use this information to run targeted ads, send location-based notifications, or offer special incentives to attract local attendees.

Contextual targeting: AI can analyze the context in which potential attendees engage with content, such as websites, articles, or online forums. Marketers can use this contextual information to deliver targeted advertisements or content that aligns with the topics or themes relevant to the trade show.

Purchase intent analysis: AI algorithms can analyze online browsing behavior and purchasing signals to identify individuals or companies displaying high purchase intent related to the products or services showcased at the trade show. Marketers can prioritize targeting these prospects to maximize conversion opportunities.

Implementing these AI-driven audience targeting strategies may involve leveraging existing AI tools and platforms, partnering with AI technology providers, or developing custom AI solutions. The specific implementation will depend on the resources, budget, and technological capabilities of the marketing team or organization.

You can see how quickly you can get down into the rabbit hole.

So what’s really happening here? As I understand it, AI has been, and continues to, scrape the web as content, and when you ask a question, it pulls pertinent information and regurgitates it back to you based on the questions you ask and how you ask them. It’s not giving you anything new – it doesn’t think it just responds. But it has millions and millions of data points, articles, expert analysts and more to pull from, so the info it gives you is going to be as deep as you want it to be.

And having read the responses to those questions, I can see how AI can be used to come up with ideas that you may have missed, didn’t know about, or hadn’t paid attention to, and AI can help you implement them.

Now: would you us AI to help in your tradeshow marketing efforts?

Skiing and Social Media Tradeshow Marketing (Seminar Coming!)

What does skiing have to do with using social media to market your tradeshow booth? Very little. Okay, it’s a biiiiig stretch! But nonetheless, earlier this week I managed to get up to Hoodoo Ski Bowl in central Oregon to do a little skiing…and daydreaming about using social media, Twitter and…well, you’ll just have to watch the video:


And yes, I am planning a live/local seminar (wow, I sound just like a local TV newscaster –Live, Local!) coming up on April 8 here in Salem, Oregon. Are you in the area? Can you come? Find out more by clicking here.

Early bird registration is still underway, which means you save $10. And IF you manage to read the fine print, you’ll see that you are actually getting my whole Social Media Tradeshow Marketing Bundle AND the live seminar…for ten bucks less than the current price of the bundle. Hmmm…is this a clever marketing ploy, or just plain stupidity?

Are there any good tradeshow marketing blogs out there?

During a discussion with a friend of mine NOT in the exhibit industry recently we were curious if there were any good ‘informational’ tradeshow marketing blogs that were not just a shill front for a sales pitch in each post.

So we took a look, searching for ‘tradeshow marketing blog’ on Yahoo, Google and MSN.

It didn’t take long to find blogs that were corporate fronts that spent most of the time pitching a sale, a product or a service – but little useful tradeshow marketing information or tools.

It took a little longer to find actual honest-to-goodness blogs that seemed interested in helping you become a better tradeshow marketer.

So here was our bar: if you’re billing yourself as a ‘tradeshow marketing blog’ there should be at least 50% content that is informative and useful. Now that doesn’t mean there can’t be ANY pitches, but those blatant BUY SOMETHING NOW blogs didn’t make the cut.

In a brief time, here’s what we found:

EXHIB-IT! Blog is billed as a ‘Tradeshow Marketing Experts’ blog, and operated by DJ Heckes, owner of EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts in New Mexico. I’d heard of her before, and can recall reading some of her stuff years ago. The WordPress powered blog appears to have been around since late ’07 or early ’08, but there appear to be only one or two posts a month. While not a terrifically active blog, there is good information here. (Alexa rank #3,839,792 most popular website)

Tradeshow Marketing is full of great posts relating directly to tradeshow marketing. It’s the stepchild of Ideas 4 Now in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. It’s been around since June of 2008 and looks to have 3 – 4 posts per month. Traffic-wise, it’s Alexa ranking is 2,828,682.

Tradeshow Emporium’s Weblog (does anybody use that word ‘weblog’ anymore??) is a mix of useful tradeshow marketing information and industry news. It appears to have a little over half-a-dozen posts over the past month. While most were useful, there were a couple that were blatant pitches or product announcements. The blog, hosted on, didn’t have an Alexa ranking and didn’t offer any contact or ‘about’ information on the blog; I had to track it down through links in their product-pitch posts.

The Trade Show Exhibit Advice Blog offered useful marketing and information posts – about 3 or 4 a month – and is the blog of the Tradeshow Network Marketing Group near Chicago. The Alexa ranking is 4,371,558.

Heidi Miller’s Talk It Up!
blog is mostly tradeshow marketing related, although other things slip in. Heidi is a professional tradeshow presenter so her insights are filtered through her experiences as getting up onstage at show after show. She’s a frequent post-er and uses embedded videos often to illustrate her point or to add to the variety of her blog. Definitely a worthy blog. Alexa rank is 1,118,497.

We found several more, but just wanted to toss a few out there as an ‘average’ sampling in a random search using just one term: “tradeshow marketing blog.’ Many that we found were just pitch-fests. Others offered useful information mixed in with a pitch or two.

And of course a few blogs that we’re aware of in the tradeshow industry didn’t show up with our specific search term.

What tradeshow marketing blogs do you like? Leave a comment with a link if you’d like!

Five Ways to Cut Your Trade Show Budget

In the old days it seemed a tradeshow was an excuse to party half the night and wake up in the hot tub.

But with an eagle on budgets being the norm today, how can you stretch your bucks? Let’s look at five ways:

  1. Plan ahead. The sooner you know details of your show set-up and travel plans the better. You can usually save by submitting show paperwork early, and booking flights and hotels months, not weeks, ahead of the show.
  2. Buy a nice carpet and take your own trash cans instead of renting
  3. Know the rules. Some shows will enforce codes that can be very costly, or penalize you if you break them. Your trade show manager should have the show books nearly committed to memory.
  4. Ship early. Last-minute drayage costs can shoot the moon.
  5. Avoid high cleaning fees: take your own carpet sweeper.

These are just thought-starters. What ideas do you have for saving $$ in your tradeshow marketing? We’d love to hear your suggestions.

What is a Lead?


Do you count the leads you bring home from a tradeshow? How do you determine what is a lead – exactly? Is it the name and contact information of a person who has expressed interest in your product or service? Is if a business card from someone who dropped it in a fishbowl at your booth because you were giving away a prize? Is it a name on a list of contacts that you know are buying your type of product or service?

Gathering the leads from a tradeshow is important. But just as important, perhaps more so, is knowing the quality of those leads. Do your new leads have an interest in what you do? Are they in the market? Do you know what their buying time frame might be?

The more information you can glean from your contacts, the better you can categorize those leads. As long as your prospect possesses the criteria that you set they have the essential qualities to eventually become a customer – and they’ve become a lead.

How much is your lead worth? If you’re going to a tradeshow to sign up distributors, and you know that in the past your distributors have ordered on average $20,000 worth of goods from you in the first year of being a distributor, and you also know that you have signed up one out of four qualified leads in the past two years – each new lead is worth about $5000 the first year.

Let’s look at it from another angle. Say you spend $28,000 exhibiting at two industry shows a year and gather about 350 leads through those shows. Your cost per lead is $80 ($28,000 / 350). If you are able to consistently show that one in four leads converts to a sale, your lead-to-sales conversion rate is $320 ($80 x 4).

So now you’re able to put a number on those leads that’s realistic. Let’s say you have a salesperson who can close one out of three qualified leads. His cost per lead is lower, and his lead-to-sales conversion is higher. If you have a salesman who’s not performing as well, his cost per lead is higher. Or, look at is this way. Since your leads are worth on average $5000 the first year, by closing on just one out of five leads, that represents a lost opportunity cost of $5000.

Key point: be sure to differentiate between contacts and leads

Now that you can estimate the value of your leads, it becomes that much more important to make sure you’re following through with your lead generation and capture process at your tradeshows. After all, you’re investing thousands in those leads! Make sure they pay off!

What system should you use? Anything that works. It could be an electronic scanning device. It could be a clipboard where you fill out a short bit of information. But to make it workable, it should be quick, convenient and accurate.

Before capturing the contact data of the lead, confirm that they’re qualified. This may be as simple as asking a question or two to determine that they’re interested in your product or service, to running through a longer process of Q and A, depending on the complexity of your offering.

Key Point: Convenience and Accuracy are the most important in gathering leads

Sifting through the visitors

The first thing when it comes to choosing whose data to capture is to immediately take the attitude of disqualifying everybody. Once a person confirms they are NOT interested in your product, you know you do NOT need to capture their information.

At the top of your list are those prospects who are ready to buy. For these you may have a sales person talk to them on the spot. Even if they say they are ready to buy, take a moment or two to run them through the few steps or questions prepared by your sales team to confirm their stance.

In between the non-buyers and the hot prospects are the rest – those who are expressing a level of interest, but may not be ready to buy right now. If you’re able to, you should determine the time frame that they might want to purchase. If not, you can at least indicate that on your data capture so the sales person has as much information as possible. The more information you can reasonably gather before the show is over saves time and money on the follow up after the show.

Your lead data form can include anywhere from a few pieces of information to 20 or 30 points that you may want to cover. Certainly you’ll want to make sure each lead has basic information such as the employee who captured the data, what show you obtained the data at, the show date, etc. Your contact information would include as much or as little as possible – the more qualified the lead appeared and the more receptive he was to information, the more data you’d want to get from him. But each person should be handled on a case-by-case basis, so that the information is individualized – which is they way they’d probably want to be treated, anyway!

The next step, of course, is to hand all of the leads over to your sales group after the show to turn those leads in to revenue as soon as possible.

Key Point: Leads are Potential Cash

Look at each lead as a source of potential revenue because that’s exactly what it is. Based on your past performance, you can safely determine about how much each lead is really worth. The more you refine and test your lead generation system, and try new things, the higher the value of each lead. You may find as you refine your process of qualifying leads, the actual number of leads may drop – but the potential value of each lead increases.

Now that you have determined how important each lead is, what’s your next step?

Make sure that your sales group is in immediate follow-up mode once the leads come back. It’s been said that anywhere from 60 to 80% of all tradeshow leads are effectively trash-binned because they’re not properly followed up on.

If you can effectively follow up on even half of your qualified leads, you’re going to lead!

Tradeshow Planning as an Attendee

Are you doing a little tradeshow planning? Are you going as an exhibitor, or just a tradeshow attendee?

If you’re not going to exhibit, you may think that you don’t really need a concise plan, except for a few exhibitors to visit and some conferences to attend.

But look at this again: as a conference attendee in your industry, you have so much more you can come back with.

For instance, you might do a little spying! Yup, make a list of your main competitors and see how many are exhibiting. Then make a point to stop by each booth, and perhaps even chat up some of the booth attendees on their new offerings. Now, any well-trained booth staffer will know what he can and can’t talk about, but that doesn’t mean your competitors have trained their staff well. (Have yours?) Just by asking a few innocent questions, you might uncover information on an upcoming product or service they’ll be offering soon that your company wants to know about.

The tradeshow is also a great time to meet partners and reinforce alliances. Everybody’s time will likely be heavily scheduled, so plan your specific meetings well in advance. If you wait until the week before, chances are good that the person you want to have dinner with on Saturday night is completely booked up.

Next, walk the show floor with an eye to what exhibits stand out. Are there any new exhibit properties or accessories that catch your eye? Are your competitors setting up booths with new cutting edge materials, or are they using the same old exhibits from 1996? Just note what types of things catch your eye and draw your attention. Is it a ceiling banner? Is it an eye-popping graphic? Is it an unusual demonstration? Collect these good ideas and you’ll be able to consider them for your own exhibit in the future.

During all of this ‘work,’ make sure you plan a little R-n-R for yourself. After all, chances are that you’re in a big city that offers entertainment you may not have in your town. Plan at least one night out with co-workers or industry colleagues if you can. Dinners are always great, especially if you heading for an unusual restaurant (I vividly recall the dinner with clients at the Japanese restaurant I had last year!) – it will usually afford you plenty of time to get to know each other better in far different circumstances that you haven’t experienced before.

No doubt you’ll have a good handle on the little things, such as comfortable shoes (you’ll be on your feet a LOT) and clothes, lots of business cards to hand out, show planning schedule, small first aid kit, etc. But nothing like a good reminder.

So get on out there and have a great time at the show!

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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