Trade Shows – Owning the Floor

Rolling out the carpet, pulling up the retractable display, and filling a large punch bowl with hard candy just does not cut it at a modern trade show. You need to drive traffic to the booth, capture leads, and make the very best impression in an incredibly compressed time. Our last blog introduced the concept of pre-show planning. Now, let’s discuss the show itself.

Let’s first start with the old real estate mantra, location, Location, LOCATION! Many shows let you bid on or pick your booth location. Pay attention to entrances, lounges, bars, and the main stage. You may also want to see who else has chosen their space. Are they a big draw exhibitor or your largest competitor? Can you get a corner booth that will provide two directions of travel versus being stuck in the middle of an aisle? Or, better yet, can your budget support an island booth?

Once your location is set, the single most valuable resource you have is who will be representing your company in the booth. At the show, for all practical purposes, this is your office. First impressions should not be that of a booth worker, sitting down, talking on the cell phone, eating a hoagie while they drip sauce on their laptop. Admit it, you have seen this at every single show you have ever attended.

Booth personnel should first and foremost, want to be there. Believe it or not, salespeople might see the show as a waste of their time. They have clients to meet with and calls to make. Standing in a booth often seems like a waste of their time. Who would be great in the booth? Consider your customer service team. They rarely get to travel but might have decades-long relationships with customers. Customers they have never met face to face.

Booth traffic builders, product demonstrations, press conferences, entertainment on and off the show floor are all considerations when building your plan. Check out the full section on During the Show planning in our eBook. Trade Shows for Manufacturers Guide. In our next post, we’ll wrap it all up with Post-Show promotion.

You committed to a trade show, now what?

Pre-show preparation is key to success and achieving a return on your investment


Step one in your trade show plan is goal setting. What do you really want to happen at this show? Knowing the outcome is key to effective goal setting.

  • Can you expect actual sales and signed purchase agreements?
  • Are you introducing a new product, feature, or service?
  • Is your goal to improve and strengthen the relationships with the customers you know will be in attendance?
  • Or, perhaps you are attending to create stronger relationships with other vendors and exhibitors
  • Lastly, media relations and creating opportunities for editors to write about your company is a worthwhile goal with long-term benefits.

Check out the full section of pre-show planning in our eBook Trade Shows for Manufacturers Guide.

One of the best tools for pre-show planning is the exhibitor handbook. This should be made available as soon as you commit to the show. Rules, order forms, sponsor information will be detailed. Make sure to order on time and secure valuable sponsorship opportunities before they are gone.

Once you have defined your goal, consider the theme of the event. Is your theme a one-time use or do you anticipate a motif across multiple shows for the year? While a baseball theme could work in the spring or an Olympics theme is tied to a particular season/year, a sports theme across an entire year offers more opportunity to engage your audience with varying promotions.

As you develop your booth, theme, and tactics, turn your attention to activities that will drive prospects to your booth. What advertising opportunities, online and in print are being offered? What about announcements to the show media? Many publications publish pre-show guides months in advance. Do you have news or announcements that should be in these trade publications? What about demonstrations at the booth or press conferences? Yes, there is a lot to consider ahead of the show. With proper, thoughtful planning you will arrive ready to tackle the challenge of the show.

Next week, we will discuss Owning the Floor with During the Show planning.


Will Trade Shows Be the Shot in the Arm for Manufacturers?


Did you see what I did there? Vaccine shots….

Manufacturers, like many businesses, have had to completely rethink their marketing approach. For years, it was feet on the street and months of trade shows, conferences, and hosted lunch & learns. Then, the doors were locked, events were canceled worldwide, and well, you know the rest of the story. Over a year ago we started writing about the huge interest in digital marketing and all things virtual. Here’s where our head was a year ago: How to Adapt B2B Manufacturing Sales Strategy for the COVID-19 World. Digital is here to stay, but another log is back on the fire.

It is April 2021 and we are once again hearing about trade shows. Will the attendees and exhibitors return at past levels? Who knows? People may be just so sick of quarantine they will attend just to get out of their basement office and see prospects in person. This very well may be an early adopter situation.

We’re sponsoring a meetup in Columbus Ohio for manufacturers. If you are in town on April 28th, contact me for tickets.

What we do know is the planning has not changed. If you are considering a show in the 4th quarter of 2021, that may sound like a long time away. It is not. Over the next few weeks, we will revisit all that is the trade show. We will cover planning, sponsorship, media interviews, and more. Our consulting on trade conferences covers three critical phases: Pre-show, During the Show, and Post-Show.

Here’s a primer, written in 2015 to get you started. Trade Show Preparation 101 for Manufacturers

If you are ready to get serious about your exhibition and creating a return on investment, download our free Trade Shows for Manufacturers eBook