Mastering the art of the trade show


Date: 21 July 2020

Blurred image of an exhibition hall and attendees

If you're thinking about your post-pandemic relaunch, don't discount the humble trade show. While your website and social media channels are an integral aspect of your marketing, once the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted it's likely people will crave face-to-face, physical contact.

A trade show enables like-minded peers and clients to come together to forge meaningful relationships and complete business transactions. It doesn't matter whether you provide a service or whether you sell unique products, an industry-specific trade show will empower you to market your brand to a market eager to hear all about what you do.

Heading to a trade show isn't as simple as turning up, kitting out your stall, and waiting for interested attendees to pass. You need to be proactive and make your exhibition stand more attractive and appealing than your competition. Take a look at this guide to help you master the art of the trade show.

Before you even get there

It's crucial that you start by picking the right sort of trade show to attend. Large trade shows will attract more footfall, but they will also be more costly to attend. If you have the cash flow and you're keen to launch with a bang, this sort of trade show could be ideal. You will need to be prepared to travel and you will have a whole host of well-established competitors to consider. Alternatively, you could opt for the smaller trade show. If you are a local venture that does most of its business regionally, this could be perfect. It'll be cheaper to attend and you will have clients that place importance on buying locally.

When you have chosen your trade show and you've paid your fee, study the site plan to work out where your pitch will be. Consider how best to enter the site, unload, set up, and dress your stall. Leave plenty of time to get there and pack your bag the day before. Don't forget plenty of food, healthy snacks, and water. You may not have much time to have breaks on a busy stall.

Your pitch

Your stall may be the size of a postage stamp. Alongside hundreds of other stalls, you can quickly become lost in a sea of pitches. It's vital that you deck out your pitch so that it stands out from across the hall. Utilise a colour scheme that echoes your logo, branding, and website. Cover the walls of your stall with banners and branded decor. Wipe clean canvas banners that roll up are easy to transport, resilient, and can be taped to most surfaces. Make sure your contact details, including phone number, website, and email address, is included on every piece of marketing that you have. Promote your social media handles in a prominent position and invite people to check-in at your stall, like, and follow your content.

Avoid gimmicks such as branded lollipops that people will just wander up and take. Instead, make your stand more interactive. If you have potential customers hanging off your every word and you are drawing a crowd, don't allow people to get bored while they wait to speak to you. Have a laptop with a Powerpoint running, detailing your business, your approach, your ethos, and what you do. Keep it fun, informal, and professional, and the crowd that forms around your pitch won't just disappear.


The idea of a goodie bag may seem gimmicky, but it is an integral part of the trade show. Forget the pencil toppers and mouse mats and opt for something sector-specific. If you're a photographer, give away some branded photo clips. If you are an accountant, a branded pocket calculator adds humour to your stall. Think of the branded goodie bag as a free bit of marketing. Potential customers carry these bags across the exhibition hall for others to see who will then gravitate towards your stall.

Marketing doesn't have to be static. Show your ethical credentials by setting up a not for profit element to your pitch. Encourage charity donations and give away a branded lanyard in return for contributions. Every donation could then be entered into a prize draw to win one of your products or services. Yes, it's gimmicky, but it captures the imagination of footfall and offers up something different.

Get suited and booted

It can be nerve-wracking standing behind a stall and trying to engage people. Ensure that you look the part and echo the ethos of your business. Don't turn up in scruffs. Wear a smart suit or go for something smart-casual such as a company branded polo shirt that you are comfortable in. Don't forget comfy shoes - you will be on your feet all day. Make sure you are presentable. People who buy a product or service from your venture will be looking to you as the face of the brand so it's vital you look the part.

If you are seeking further investment, want to network, or are eager to make connections with other stallholders, you need to be presentable, engaging, and enthusiastic. Talk freely and energetically about your business. Remember the passion you have for what you do and inject this into your discussions with potential customers.

You could choose to set up 'talk-times' at your stall to generate a buzz. If your initial morning talk goes well, those attendees will tell others about your products or services. You can exponentially grow the interest in your brand. Invite people to sign up to be on an email list, and you will have plenty of contacts to follow up on when you get back to the office.

Being a trade show aficionado takes time but will empower your business to thrive. Master the art of the trade show and your start up adventure will become even more exciting.

Copyright 2020. Article was made possible by site supporter Jeremy Bowler

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