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Ready, Set, Show: 5 Must-Haves For Your Next Trade Show Exhibition

Published: 2023-02-07 Author: Lisa Horn

Trade Shows: one of the most effective ways of connecting professionals to build brand awareness, qualify potential leads and, ultimately, drive sales. But trade shows only deliver high results if they’re done right. 

While there are thousands of trade shows held every year, many exhibitors don’t take advantage of the full potential these face-to-face meetings have. As a result, the return on investment suffers and the effectiveness of trade shows erodes. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With some planning and a few easy-to-implement strategies, your next trade show exhibition could be your best.

1. Communicate: Begin With Pre-Selling

What’s the secret to having a great show? Promote early…and often. This is where planning can turn an exhibition from a dud into a slam-dunk. 

First, let all of your current customers and prospects on your mailing list know you’ll be exhibiting through an integrated email and social media campaign. This doesn’t have to be complicated, just a simple note and post that invites them to your booth and gives them a reason to stop by.

Next, get the list of pre-registered attendees from the hosting organization and begin communicating with them as well. Use the same basic messaging as with your current customer list, but tailor it to introduce your company to those who may be unfamiliar with you.

While electronic communication is easy to implement and is a good place to start, it shouldn’t be your only method of pre-show marketing. Dive deeper into the pre-registered attendee list to find those with whom you really want to meet and develop a specific strategy to get their attention. Depending on the number of hot prospects, you could do a postcard mailing to break through the clutter. 

Take this one step further and create an incentive to boost booth traffic. For example, create a mailing that includes a key, which could open a treasure chest that contains a desirable gift your audience craves. 

For those who visit the booth and don’t win the big prize, have a consolation gift (decorated with your logo, of course!) to thank them for their time and serve as a reminder of your services. 

2. Be Seen: Design Eye-Catching Booth Signage

In a sea of booths on a crowded exhibition floor, having the right signage can be the difference in being found…or forgotten. Don’t skimp; this is one area where you really want to budget the money to go beyond a simple banner or tablecloth. Rather, create more engaging graphics that are meaningful to your audience and will entice them to stop when walking down the trade show aisle, thus ensuring higher ROI. 

The EuroFit Banner System is a great place to start.

3. Look Professional: Outfit Trade Show Staff Appropriately

First impressions are important, and the appearance of your booth staff is crucial. They are an extension of your brand, so don’t make the mistake of not providing corporate apparel for them. 

While many exhibitors offer a simple polo shirt for their staff, don’t stop there. Exhibition halls are often cold, so be sure to provide pieces that can be layered—cardigans, quarter-zip pullovers, etc.—so your branding is visible and doesn’t get lost underneath a nondescript garment an employee brings to stay warm.

Finally, be sure the apparel items are properly fitted for those working the booth. Ordering “unisex” shirts may be easy, but this often results in unflattering fits. Rather, select ladies’ styles for the women who will be representing your brand. Also, get samples of the chosen garments for the staff to try on before placing the order to ensure the sizing is correct. 

To make sure your team is dressing the part, learn how to jumpstart your uniform program here

4. Give Gifts: Integrate Merch To Extend Brand Reach

Merch and trade shows go hand-in-hand. The problem is that many exhibitors wait until the last minute to determine what kind of promotional gifts to use, often settling for whatever is available in order to have something to serve as a giveaway. Unfortunately, this often results in a product that doesn’t align with the overall brand message or is of substandard quality—both of which do a disservice to the company and ultimately wastes money.

To obtain the most from your investment, get your promotional consultant into the process in the initial planning stages to take advantage of his or her marketing expertise. Whether you develop a specific theme for the trade show or you integrate current marketing messages into the communication and design, choose promotional products that align with this messaging so they make sense.

You can even develop a plan that includes several gifts to make your budget stretch further. Start with an inexpensive gift—food, pens, office supplies and the like—that can be distributed to the masses as they pass through your booth. To reward those contacts with real potential, have a second gift (often kept out of sight) with higher perceived value that you give after a conversation or consultation.

Whatever type or number of gifts you select, they should be something that’s useful with staying power to get your brand noticed. Bouncing balls may be cute, but if they only end up in kids’ rooms at home, that’s not an effective use of your marketing efforts.

5. Continue The Conversation: Follow Up With A Personal Touch

One of the main reasons trade show marketing fails is lack of proper follow up. This failure can be seen in not responding in a timely manner, sending generic follow up messages or materials that don’t meet the attendees’ needs, or simply not following up at all (hard to believe, but it happens!).

To make the follow up process easier, take notes about all your conversations—from writing highlights in a notebook, on the back of a business card, on a printout from the badge scanner, or in Evernote or similar note-taking app on your phone. Otherwise, it’s impossible to keep everything straight.

And if you really want to stand out from other exhibitors, make the follow up personal. Send a hand-written note with your business card. Incorporate a flat and easily mailed promotional product—coaster, pen, letter opener, etc.—to make an even stronger impact and gain some of that coveted desk real estate where your brand can be seen over and over again.

Make Trade Show Marketing Work For You

In an economy where ROI must be demonstrated, don’t let the value trade shows provide slip through your fingers. The investment of your time to properly plan your exhibition strategy in addition to your money to execute it will pay off in the end.  

Ready to find out how promotional products and branded merchandise can benefit your next trade show exhibition? Our concier​​ge service can develop a strategic and integrated trade show marketing plan to address all five must-have aspects discussed above.

Contact us at or book an appointment at for a quick call to get started. 


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