There are many views on the value of tradeshows, conferences and career fairs. The fact is that you can be lost in a crowd and they can be the best thing ever. The difference between a good show and not a good show begins with the show organizers, but then it falls to you and your team. If you are attending a reputable show that others have given you good feedback on then you need to determine how to get people to your booth. If you don’t have a plan to attract an audience then you will only meet those people that wander around the entire hall. Not many people wander the entire hall.

Have a plan
The first thing is booth selection and from there many factors come into attracting an audience and converting them into business. The last time I checked, attending a show is to drive business. Who are you sending to the show should be among your questions? Who of your clients and prospects will be at the show? What does your booth look like and does it have a message? What is your hook? How will you promote the fact that you are attending the show and how will you promote your hook? What will you be doing about tracking? What is the plan for follow up? What are your goals to walk out of the show with? These are among the questions you should answer in building a plan because showing up and waiting for people to stop bye is not a strategy.

Identify your prospects
I recommend that you identify the type of companies that you are trying to attract. It may be your standard audience or it may be different based on the type of show. Many of the shows will give you the list (not often), sell you the list (many times) or allow mailings and emails that you give to them and they send out on your behalf (sometimes). Talk to the show coordinators about what can be done to promote yourself to the audience you want. Blasting out emails to their entire database may or may not help if you are only targeting a portion. They can recommend ideas to you. Additionally, email your own database to let them know that you are attending. Add the event attendance to your email signature. Mailings are great, but do something original if possible. Postcards are not original, but at least they are something. The biggest thing to remember is that you need to drive your intended audience to your booth.

Get them to the booth
Shakespeare once said that it is the play within the play. The play you are attending is a tradeshow so what will the play within the tradeshow be. Coming up with a theme is a good way to begin. When you create a theme, you want to think about how it will engage your audience. I have seen themes around Nascar, Stress Relief, Get off the Roller Coaster, We can Predict Your Future and more. Each of these themes allows you different opportunities to have something at your booth to drive people coming to your booth. Get off the normal roller coaster allows you to have a virtual reality roller coaster at your booth and predicting your future offers the ability to have a fortune teller. You may be thinking that these are big ticket items or bigger booth space kind of things to do and the fact is that there are all kinds of ways to attract an audience. Talk to a few of your clients and tell them what you are trying to do because they will have feedback that can help. Just keep in mind that you are attracting the audience to your booth so now we need to know who came to the booth.

The key to solid tracking is knowing what kinds of people will be coming bye your booth. Do you want to track them simply by company, title and name along with a code for hot, warm or cold or do you want to segment by industry. The best tradeshow tracking comes from understanding your goals. Break it down to the easiest possible terms and from there many options exist. Most of the tradeshows offer lead tracking units that can be rented for the show and cost less than $500 for rental. Having custom codes added into the units is a capability that also exists. When these units are not offered, the low tech alternative is always available…business card drops and lead cards. If you go low tech, then be sure to get these into a spreadsheet as quickly as possible (while still at the show). You cannot follow up on a ton of loose pieces of paper and expect success.

Follow Up
In your plan, you should have included what you are going to do with lead follow up. Are you going to contact everyone the day after or a few days after? When will the sales team start calling to attempt to set up meetings and gain traction? Leads that sit for any prolonged period of time are dead leads. Have a plan on how to break up the leads into groupings that can be followed up by the sales team. Make sure the sales team knows that you want to know what happens so have an easy way for them to track the calls, connects, meetings, opportunities and wins from the leads and remember to follow up with them consistently. A good friend of mine said to me once, (okay many times) inspect what you expect. If you don’t examine the follow up then the sales team won’t do it. Have fun.

Five Tradeshow Takeaways:

  1. Have a plan
  2. Identify your prospects
  3. Get them to the booth
  4. Tracking
  5. Follow Up


About S.J.Hemley Marketing
S.J.Hemley Marketing is a marketing and sales consulting firm focused on driving tangible results for professional services firms. Brand matters, but not without ROI. With over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within staffing and recruiting, we have helped to drive successful branding, sales training, lead generation activities as well as defining marketing strategy for top organizations.