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

December 2015

Top 10 Tradeshow Marketing Tips to Begin 2016

Hey, it’s a Top Ten List! Let’s look at ten things to do as you prepare for another year of tradeshow marketing:

  1. Assess what happened this year. What did you spend? What were your results? Are there any areas where you can cut back? Are there areas that you need to invest more?
  2. Create a will-attend show list. Perhaps you know this by heart. Maybe there are a few shows that have slipped down in your estimation, or some that that become more important.
  3. Create a list of other shows that are on the bubble.
  4. Know your show goals. Your overall goal is to grow the business, but each show likely presents an opportunity to do different things, such as build brand awareness, reach new markets, recruit partners, generate sales leads, solidify ties with current clients, maximize press and media outreach, unveil a new product or service or do research. Shows are often a combination of all of those (and more), but it is worthwhile to create a plan for each show that focuses on 2 or 3 specific areas.
  5. Come up with new ways to attract booth traffic. What you did last year may or may not work this year. Don’t sit on your laurels; try to come up with at least one new concept per show on how you can drive traffic to your booth.
  6. Ensure your lead generation system is working. Your show ROI depends almost exclusively on how you manage your sales leads. Work with your marketing and sales teams to make sure that each step is clear and workable.
  7. Assess your booth. This might mean taking it out of the cases or crates and setting it up. This should be done with any booth regardless of size, just to make sure it withstands the rigors of regular set-up and dismantle. So often a booth is quickly packed at the end of a show and sent back to the storage facility, and no one bothers to check the condition of the booth until right before the next show. Or during set-up, which is ever worse! If repairs are needed, get them done in a timely manner.

  8. Plan to book travel well in advance. Especially hotel rooms at popular and growing shows. If show hotels are booked, you can usually find a good deal on AirBnB.
  9. Plan the logistics of your upcoming shows. Order services, promotions, uniforms and other items a few months ahead of time or as needed.
  10. Plan your pre-show marketing outreach, from email to postcards, social media and other methods.

The more prepared you are, the better the opportunity to increase your leads, sales and brand awareness.


Want a digital copy of my new book? Click here.

Breaking the Ice – How to Engage Tradeshow Visitors

With all of the moving parts in your tradeshow marketing program, there is one area that stands out above all the rest as being critical to your success – how to break the ice and engage tradeshow visitors.

engage tradeshow visitors

And since this is a compelling question that needs concrete answers, I thought it worthwhile to bring in one of the pros at tradeshow engagement, Andy Saks of Spark Presentations. Andy has been training company booth staff in the art and science of engagement for years. I thought it would be an easy thing to have him share a few questions that he teaches his clients about how to engage, but it’s much more complicated than that! Of course it is.

As Andy describes it, booth staffers often walk into a booth shortly before the show begins, seeing it for the first time, and it’s a beautiful piece of branding that the company obviously spent a lot of time and money on. The booth is MUY IMPORTANTE, which immediately makes the staffers feel like they’re there to support this awesome booth and company. But it’s not necessarily the way it should be.

“The booth is there to support you, not the other way around,” said Andy. Without training, a booth staffer often feels like they are there to field questions and direct traffic. But a properly trained staffer who understands the situation – fully understands the entire scope of appearing at a tradeshow to gather leads and convert them into a customer – has a better understanding of how to approach engagement. Which will result in more leads and more business.


When you’re standing in a tradeshow booth, everything you do or do not do is reflecting your company back to the attendee. You’re representing them in everything you do. Something that’s minor and innocuous in any other situation is seen in a much different light at a tradeshow. If you’re eating food, for instance, in that moment a potential client sees that act of you gulping down a hotdog, the underlying message is ‘it appears they are not ready for me to engage with them; they’re not ready for me to be their customer.’

Everything you do in a booth, from eating, talking on a cell phone, standing with your arms folded, sitting in the back of the booth is sending a message to prospective clients that you’re trying to reach, and the message is: we’re not ready for you, please go somewhere else. So all that money spent on the booth and on staff travel and lodging is then wasted on that prospect.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • DO Stand around the edge of the booth, within a couple of feet of the edge of the booth.
  • DO Stand alone, not in a group of people (which is intimidating).
  • DON’T be holding anything that the attendee might consider a potential distraction.
  • DON’T be drinking coffee, which sends a message that you’re not at 100%.
  • DO be smiling, and really making a concerted effort to smile and put on your best face.
  • DO wear your badge high on your chest, preferably on your right shoulder, so that it’s easy to see and read and sends a signal that ‘it’s important to me that you know my name.’


Now that you’ve made yourself the most appealing thing at that moment, you move to the QUALIFYING stage. The goal is to ask smart, qualifying questions to build a personal rapport of trust and also reveals their pain.

Some of the questions that Andy recommends revolve around the idea of connecting with somebody, including this one:

“How’d you get started in your job or this industry?” The attendee will regard this question as a sign of your interest in them. Most people, as adults, are not doing what they thought they’d like to do as a kid. By asking this question, it recognizes that somewhere along the way, they took a left turn from their intended or desired career to get where they are now. People like to talk about themselves, and a question like this will reveal a lot of things that may be important.  Other staffers in other booths tend to focus on product benefits, company marketing bullet points – in other words, it’s all ME ME ME, and if you ask about THEM you have made an impact. You have made yourself memorable.

engaging with visitors
engaging with visitors

As you get a couple of minutes into the conversation and you’ve uncovered that they may be using a competiting product, ask a COLLECTION question, such as, “What would you change about your current product if you could?”  The tradeshow floor is a tremendous opportunity for market research, and if you’re in the midst of a one on one engagement, you can uncover elements of how they use that product. In fact, they might list the top three or four things about that product that they’d like to change – stuff they don’t like.

In this instant, you have someone who is a user of your competitor’s products, telling you specific things that they don’t like about that product. Can you imagine having that conversation 10, 15, 20 times a day and what market research would come from that?

That’s when you can say, “Well, just so you know, our product does such and such and solves those problems, so if you’re ever in the position to switch, we’d be glad to talk to you.” You’ve planted a seed that may help them grow into a client.


Now it’s time to wrap up the qualifying stage of the conversation. Take the information they’ve given you and feed it back to them: “Let me see if I have this correct: you’re looking for a product or service that has this feature and this feature, so that you can reach this goal of doing this and as a result you get this benefit and this benefit. Do I have that right?”

As Andy put it, when you’re saying this to the attendee, you’ll hear your voice and all of the noise of the tradeshow floor, but the attendee will hear angels. Because somebody on a tradeshow floor listened to them!

The sale is nearly 90% complete in this moment. All other details, like size, delivery options and so on can be worked out.

Your tradeshow booth staff is the front line. They represent your company from sunup to sundown in every moment on the tradeshow floor. How they represent you may be the difference between winning that big client or distributor for your product. If they don’t know how to engage attendees properly, you may not even know what you missed.

Andy Saks, Spark Presentations, excels in tradeshow presentations and tradeshow training for booth staff. Check out his page and the fun video. You’ll no doubt learn something very worthwhile!

Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

2016 Tradeshow Webinars Launched

Over the years I’ve done a number of webinars, some for myself and some because other entities have asked me to do so. I’ve thought for the last year or so that I wanted to start doing them regularly, so I’ve committed to a schedule of at least one webinar a month for 2016.

webinar keyboard

I’ll be using the WebinarJam platform. I checked out a number of platforms, compared costs and related tools, and think it’s a good match for what I would like to do. I’ve also joined Webinara, which is a webinar promotion platform, so we’ll see what happens with that affiliation. Webinara, if you aren’t familiar with them, is a Norway-based company that looks to spread the word about webinars across many different markets. Again, we’ll see what happens with that!

January 20 Webinar: Your Tradeshow Marketing Questions Answered

As for the first webinar, it’s set for January 20, 2016 at 10 am Pacific. I’m going to do a Q&A on tradeshow marketing. So if you have a question, make sure you register for the webinar. It could run ten minutes, it could run 90! I don’t know. We’ll see how many people submit questions or join us online. It should be fun, and in any event, the WebinarJam platform records the webinar automatically and makes it available on my YouTube channel.

Here are the details:

Title: Your Tradeshow Marketing Questions Answered

Date: January 20, 2016

Time: 10 am Pacific, 11 am Mountain, 12 noon Central, 1 pm Eastern

Register here!

Spread the word – I hope you’ll join us!

Tweet: Join @TradeshowGuy for a great #tradeshow webinar Jan 20: Your Tradeshow Marketing Questions Answered!

Book Look: Three Feet From Seven Figures

David Spark’s new book, “Three Feet From Seven Figures,” takes a look at the interaction between show visitors and booth staff, and takes the position that it’s the most critical element of successful tradeshow marketing.


Hard to argue with that view.

Going through his free sample at Three Feet, it’s easy to see why he feels that way. You also get a quick glance at his potential solutions. For instance, David outlines a 7-step process to create the most positive qualified engagements:

  1. Break the Ice – find a point to begin engagement
  2. Create a Rapport – find a business reason to keep engaging
  3. Qualify the Person Quickly – is this the right person for your business?
  4. Tell Your Story – Qualified or not, everyone should know your story and be able to retell it
  5. Go grab the free sample for 5, 6 and 7…you’ll be glad you did!

As he puts it, “we put too much reliance on everything but the people.” Yes, you can have a great booth, but people don’t stop to talk to a great booth. It’s just a framework for the people inhabiting the booth and representing the company. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because all of the booth elements are terrific that you’re going to have a successful show.

Good luck on the book, David!

David runs Spark Media Solutions, a brand journalism firm in the San Francisco area.

The Range of Tradeshow Pre-Show Marketing and Post-Show Follow Up

Two conversations I had this week starkly illustrated the vast difference between companies and their approach to show prep and post-show follow up.


In one instance, I was speaking with a potential client about their upcoming schedule for 2016. The gentleman told me that he was relatively new with the company, having come from a much larger company with about ten times the amount of employees. He had been the coordinator of all of the company’s tradeshow marketing efforts – which were big. The new company had an ambitious schedule, too, and he went into some detail about what it took to prepare for the show in terms of logistics, promotion, planning, tradeshow giveaways and so on, and then he went into detail about how much information they brought home from each show in terms of data and sales leads and how much time it took to digest and disseminate that material throughout the company.

In other words, they rocked it. Deep and wide. No stone left unturned as it were.

Contrast that to a conversation I had a day later with a consultant who worked with dozens of companies to help them ramp up their abilities to engage with attendees, gather sales leads and create a plan for follow up.

“It astonishes me how many companies still don’t have a clue. They wait until two weeks before the show and call me and want help doing promotion and preparing. Fact is, they should have called me six months earlier,” he said.

So there’s definitely a large real-world spectrum of how much involvement companies have in their tradeshow strategy, preparation and engagement. Some get it and are taking every competitive advantage available to them. Others are shooting from the hip and hoping to get something good out of the show.

Which one are you?


Click here to grab my Tradeshow Follow-up Checklist

So I searched #tradeshow on Twitter…

Twitter is a great source for a lot of things: breaking news, rants and raves, tracking of stories and trends. So nearly every day I’ll spend a few moments to see what’s being offered in the #tradeshow world.

It’s a mix of blatant self-promotion, informative articles and out-of-the-box posts that make ya just scratch your head.

Let’s take a look at a few that I found recently:

First, the good stuff. @CorporateFX posted a link to their daily postings, and included a link to 35 Experts Predict the Events That Will Shape Your Future, courtesy of EventBrite. Future prognosticating? Great reading, even if it’s wrong. At this point, we just don’t know!

Next I came across @RobynDavis‘s great share of an infographic:

TPG Live Events offered a look why you might have scared that tradeshow buyer away:

I really liked this one from @BlueHiveInc (great meme for tradeshows!):


And then, without naming names, I came across blatant pitches to rent a monitor, buy a booth, check out designs and more. Nothing wrong with that, unless it’s all you do with your Twitter account. I wouldn’t name names because they know who they are. I’m sure I’ve done it, too. But that’s not all I do.

And as for those goofy off the wall posts? Naah, not so much. The #tradeshow world is not populated by too many goofy people. We all take this stuff seriously. Even me. Sometimes.

Check out the #tradeshow hashtag tracking on Twitter now and then. Along with #eventprofs. Another good one from the event world.

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest

“…Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.”

That’s a line from a Paul Simon song, The Boxer, recorded by Simon and Garfunkel.

And it happens all the time. “Selective hearing,” according to my wife, and perhaps many other spouses.

But does that sort of thing happen on the tradeshow floor? Do people see what they want to see and disregard the rest?

Do people see that cool, shiny new product and disregard the great support that your team offers for every purchase?

Do your visitors see the famous author in your booth, wait in line for a free autographed copy of her new book, and yet fail to see the great products that you’re selling?

Do attendees see the giant spinning logo above your booth but fail to see how your company’s story relates to them?

Of course, there’s no way that everybody at a show will see every aspect of your (or other) booths.

So what are they missing that you might do a better job at communicating to them?

Become a Person of Interest at the Tradeshow

Tradeshows cost time and money. A lot. So how do you differentiate from the thousand other exhibitors all vying for attention?

One way is to become a person of interest at the tradeshow. Here are a few ways to stand out from the crowd.

magnifying glass

Be a speaker, or participate in a panel presentation. Typically these slots are open to company management, so if one of your management team is good at delivering a presentation or speaking extemporaneously in a panel situation, work to get them involved. Depending on the show, this kind of exposure can do wonders for word of mouth, especially if the presentation is top-notch. When I’ve given presentations at tradeshows, no matter how many people were in the audience, there were always a handful that wanted to pigeonhole me right afterwards and talk shop. Some have become clients.

You want more ways to become a person of interest? If you’re good, give demonstrations in the booth.

What about one-on-one interactions with booth visitors? You can be interesting by being energetic, outgoing, and asking a lot of questions. And if you have good stories, tell them. Everyone should have at least three good stories. At a party, they could be about things you’ve done or how you’ve lived. But at a tradeshow, if you have three good stories about the business, your products and how they impacted customers, share them.

Above all, if you want to be a person of interest at a tradeshow, just be an interesting person.

Fishbowls and Spinning Wheels are Not Lead Generation Tools


We’ve all been to those shows. Maybe it was a small Chamber of Commerce show, or a county fair or a local public tradeshow. You see booths with the standard six-foot table with a drape in the front of the booth, and someone has put a fishbowl on the table with a small sign that says if you toss your card in the fishbowl you might win something!

Or you see a spinning wheel where you are spinning for a small prize, and perhaps one larger prize. People line up several deep to take a shot at winning a pocket-size LED flashlight, some lip balm or some other little item.

Now and then you see a dunk tank or maybe a little golf putting green that draws people to a booth by the dozens.

These are not effective lead generation activities. You may think they are, but if you’re hoping to attract buyers to your booth or leads for your sales team to follow up with using these flimsy tactics, you might as well stay home and send me the money. Nope, tradeshow success is all about drawing a crowd and knowing what to do with it.

People who put business cards are not prospects. Most will simply plop a card in the bowl and wander off. You haven’t talked to them; you don’t have a valid reason for a follow up call.

And that wheel? What did you learn about that woman who won some lip balm? Probably nothing.

Lead generation is the specific activity of capturing contact information and related follow up information from visitors so you connect with them shortly after the show. A valid lead is someone who you’ve talked with enough to find out if they’re interested in your products, are nearing a buying decision and are seriously considering your company’s products or services.

So leave the wheels and fishbowls to your competitors.

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