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Trade shows and exhibitions can offer fantastic opportunities for you and your company. You can make business connections with others in your field, unveil a new product or technology, and also benefit from the educational sessions they offer.

While these are all great reasons to attend trade shows and exhibitions, you have to be careful not to choose the wrong one. You could waste resources, potentially lose profits, or discourage management or employees from attending future events. You want to maximize the return on your investments. Therefore, the million-dollar question remains. How do you choose the best trade show(s) for your company?


How can one troubleshoot such an evasive topic? There are some elements you and your company can look at to prepare for trade shows and exhibitions. We will look into several key factors to help you understand:

  • Why you need to attend trade shows and exhibitions;

  • How to choose the right trade shows and exhibitions to bring you the highest ROI; and

  • How to calculate ROI on your trade show attendance.


Before discussing these questions, we need to agree on one key factor – your attendance at any event requires clear set goals. Before you initiate any planning, you need to define your primary goal – Why are you considering attending the trade show? Here are some reasons companies give:

  • Reinforcesales of existing products or technologies

  • Enterinto a new geographic market or customer segment

  • Re-establishyour presence on the particular market

  • Recruit personnel

  • Customer meetings

  • Close sales

  • Demo products

  • Advance the buying process

  • Support your industry

  • Test-market products

  • Distribute products

  • Identify trends in the industry

  • Develop international contacts

  • Develop competitive insight

  • Support strategic partners

As you can see, the reasons for attending trade shows and exhibitions are numerous. The study outlined in this image shows some of the top objectives for companies attending tradeshows.

Define Your Attainable and Measurable Goals 


Now take a pen or pencil and define those goals with your team. Keep in mind that you may need to get those goals approved by top management. Also, be sure to refer to the overall company business strategy for the quarter, year or decade.


 While defining those goals, find the answers to the following questions:

  • Which product line is expected to grow?

  • Is your digital marketing growth set as a priority?

  • If the goal was set to build partnerships, find out what type of partnerships were on top of the list.

Answers to these questions will help you define attainable goals and choose the most appropriate show to attend. In addition, it will help you take a step forward to increase the trade show attendance ROI.


Remember, use all the information you have at your disposal. 


Also, if your company has already attended similar events, look at the metrics regarding those events. Data such as demographics of the attendees, sales records, or marketing budgets become your best friends in defining attainable goals.


 To move to the next step, you must ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will you prepare?

  • Do you already have all the marketing materials ready?

  • Will you involve the external help?

  • Who will need to man your office during the trade show?

  • Who will attend with you?

While the specific answers vary depending upon your company size, the event itself, and established goals, there are some universal suggestions that everyone should consider. You must cover the basics as a minimum, but we really want you to be even more prepared.


One major factor to consider when deciding on the show to attend is where the trade show or exhibition is located, and also the time of year it will take place. If the trade show or exhibition is planned during a time where your customers or potential customers are the busiest, it may not be the best time to attend. Weather conditions also need to be considered. For example, your target audience is not likely to travel to Alaska for a trade show during winter unless there is a solid reason for them to go.

Also, don't forget about the additional costs that may affect the event's ROI. Locations further away from your home base will cost you more. So do luxurious destinations. You should utilize any knowledge you have from past trade shows and exhibitions and factor that into what you know will work for your company. Think through your choices and carefully forecast the projected revenue and other benefits from trade show attendance.

Finally, to find a good list of trade shows and exhibitions, you may want to ask us. We will be happy to share the list with you.


Trade shows are still one of the best and most profitable places for B2B marketing. Attendance alone can give your company a competitive edge on rivals that don't attend. But how can you evaluate the potential effectiveness of the show? How do you quantify if a trade show was a success?

Customers still enjoy face-to-face interaction with their suppliers and partners. In-person meetings are difficult to replace. In the trade show setting, you can give your customers an experience they will associate with you. You can teach them something they can't just learn online, answer their technical questions, give them a product demo, learn more about them and their needs, and further engage them in conversation about your product or service. This builds long lasting relationships. You can also uniquely differentiate yourself from competition, putting your company one step above them. This is your chance to stand out from the crowd and to tell the story of why you do what you do.

So the next question is: which trade show, if any, will be the most beneficial for you?

Jill Odom, one of our influencers, discusses the importance of weighing the pros and cons of trade show attendance in her article, The Importance of Exhibiting at Trade Shows. One of the key factors she points out is that if you know your market well and determined the best product to feature at a show, you will have constant customer interaction throughout the show. By meeting your clients face-to-face, you can perform on-site market research as to what people like about your product as well as what concerns they might have. These are critical areas of market research that can go overlooked if you don't get that direct contact. In addition, marketing to other exhibiting businesses, or learning about your competition, will add value to what you will do in the future.

Finding data regarding your company's previous years' performance is useful for making decisions. If possible, talk with sales reps who were part of the previous trade shows' management team. Try to find out if those contacts made during the show converted into revenue or whether the company benefited from new and fruitful partnerships. This is all excellent information to have at your disposal.


In most cases, you need to justify attendance to upper management. You must explain, clearly, that you probably won't make immediate sales at the show. Making immediate sales is actually quite unusual. However, you can still forecast sales revenue by identifying hot leads with the implementation of this formula:

expected hot leads X close rate X average value of the sale of contract = estimated revenue.

Data on the expected leads can often be acquired on the trade show website based on the attendance from previous years.

If you are currently struggling to find time for just the day-to-day aspects of the business, you might not be ready to dive into the trade show pool as an exhibitor. Make sure your workload is under control first. Sometimes just participating in a trade show for a couple of days may be your most valuable option. You will be able to meet prospects, gain knowledge on current industry trends, and meet potential partners with whom the lasting and fruitful relationships can be built.

And don't forget to SET YOUR GOALS. We cannot emphasize this enough. You will be unable to determine whether you had a successful event if you did not have established goals in the first place. By setting goals your entire team will be on the same page and ready to conquer the world.


Once you have chosen a show and venue, you must decide who is the best fit to man the booth. Do you want upper management, marketing personnel, operational employees, and/or sales reps to be there? The decision usually lies within your defined goals. If you are demonstrating a new product or explaining a new technology, having the engineers or tech sales reps or even operational personnel on-site to answer technical questions would be your best bet. However, if the purpose of your attendance is to find new employees or make new connections, HR, middle management, and/or business development experts will be the best choice. By taking time to think through your goals and the desired outcomes of each show, you can build the best team.

Make sure that your team is ready to interact. Your audience wants to be there. They have taken time out of their lives to attend this event, so use this fact to your advantage. Offering specials and giveaways, or having an appealing booth will draw others to you. Teach your team to be welcoming and engaging. Also, make sure they are willing to interact and answer questions.

Most importantly, follow-up on any leads or connections you may have while you are still at the show. You cannot expect potential clients to check-in with you. By implementing proper follow-up practices during and after the show, you can bring more value to your company.

The Importance of a Talented Staff

Once you have attracted visitors, your salespeople need to ask and answer questions. This has to be done before launching into a generic pitch of your business. Customers will appreciate their needs being listened to from the very beginning. Trade show studies have found that 80% of show attendees remember more about the salespeople manning the booth than the booth itself. Your success at a trade show rides mostly on the talent and knowledge of your staff. Because of this and the high level of investment in trade shows, it is advised that you do not send rookie sales members to man a booth. Also, do proper training before the event.

The primary objective for your team is to present themselves as knowledgeable, confident, and inviting.

You want attendees to see your employees as someone worth knowing.

William Comcowich echoes the importance of teamwork and understanding your goals in his article, How to Best Measure the Value of Trade Shows. According to Comcowich, your goals and objectives must be determined before your ability to understand whether the trade show will be a success. By setting these goals, you will have an instrument in which to measure the metrics of the show. If you do not have clear-cut goals, you will not know what to measure, or even whether or not the event proved to be a success.


Next, hone in on what will be displayed at the show you have chosen to attend. Will the audience be looking for product/solutions your company offers? Will they want to see supplemental solutions for what will be provided by most of the show exhibitors based upon the theme of the show? Or maybe you will be a problem-solver for other exhibiting companies at the show. Know your role and take it seriously.

Exhibiting too many products can be just as detrimental as highlighting the wrong product.

The AMA suggests incorporating special promotions that may increase interest in your product or potentially shorten the sale cycle for your audience. Remember: you are attending this event to meet people and hopefully make lasting connections. Think of the partnership opportunities with other companies that serve a similar client base. Can your products be an extension of each other? Symbiotic relationships benefit everyone. Connections within your industry should be at the forefront of everyone's mind while attending the event.


Just as you have made a well-thought choice picking your product to display, you will also want to prepare your marketing material thoughtfully. This is not referring to just the booth design.

By having materials including videos, booklets, instructional images, or 3D printed examples, you can illustrate what you have to offer in a colorful and entertaining format. Above all, this leads to potential emotional connections your customers make with your brand that may benefit you now and in the future.

Due to the high costs of attending trade shows, you want to put your money to good use. Plan your booth size and determine which props or tools you will need. Also, if you need to have animations or other visual aids, consider the costs. Some companies plan for a show a year or more in advance to save on costs and avoid having to pay rush fees!

In addition, you may need to hire someone to design your marketing materials if you don't have a high caliber in-house design team. It is important to know that the general look of your booth is not the only thing needed for a successful event.

Wendy Stasolla, at Imbue, suggests preparing a trade show strategy at least six months in advance. While having a fantastic looking booth can help, Stasolla believes that the real key lies in having a well-executed strategy. Imbue suggests advanced planning of your exposure in trade journals, direct mailing, and special presentations. Hosting events to precede your unveiling at a trade show can also help drum up hype for your product.

Successful Guidelines for Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Whether you are unveiling a new design/product or creating brand awareness, there are several factors to consider. Imbue suggests some specific guidelines to increase your chances of a successful trade show:

  • Know your client base. Who do you want to speak to? Who is most likely to benefit from your product? Calculate the number of those you expect in attendance. Take the number of those in attendance, reduceit by half, and assume that 20% of those in attendance may be potential customers for your company.

  • Plan out your booth. Do you need to have it built, or you are using an existing one? Do you need to update the design of an existingbooth? If possible, strategize the best location for your booth in the exhibit area. You want to be placed somewhere that guarantees maximum exposure without any obstructions.

  • Begin promoting your attendance at the show well in advance of the day of the show.Don't wait until the last minute! Begin a marketing campaign three weeks before the show through social media, mail, or email. Use the medium your target audience appreciates the most.

  • Know your team! Select your team wisely. Be sure they are prepared to discuss the product or service and are well versed in anything they may be asked. They need to engage the audience and pass along pertinent information in an entertaining manner.

  • Keep records. Use the acquired data of your previous trade show attendance to answer questions for your company in the future. Don't forget to follow-up on leads after the event. A personal connection with those that showed interest maylead to a future beneficial relationship. It is a waste of your time and it decreases your ROI when you do not connect with those following the event.

No Simple Solution

There is never going to be just ONE thing that guarantees your success at trade shows and exhibitions. By combining all of the practices given above, you can maximize your potential to achieve the desired goal. Be prepared with materials to hand out. Business cards, booklets, or souvenirs will remind your potential client who you are and what you have to offer. If you are featuring several different products, have a comprehensive catalog produced in an easy to read format. Bring your staff together. Also, make sure your trade show personnel are knowledgeable about your product and are ready to engage and educate your audience.

The Importance of Booth Content and Design at Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Existential design is important. However, you must first start with the content of your booth. Be sure to take the set goals for the trade show into consideration. Will you debut a new product? Will you promote an older product or products? Are you trying to push a product that has not proved successful in the past? All of these are questions should be asked well in advance. Choose which best fits the trade show and your overall goals.

When designing your booth keep in mind what you want your customers to experience. Do you have a complicated product that may need further explanation? By creating educational materials for your booth such as videos, animations, virtual experiences, and interactive tools, you can explain or reveal a problem that your product can solve. Education is vital to your potential customer, especially if they are unfamiliar with your product. Educational marketing can bring your customer connections to a new level.

It may be smart to ask for the trade show host's permission to record the behavior of the booth attendees for further analysis and maintenance of this valuable knowledge.

The more quality data you have to analyze, the better prepared you will be for next year.

The American Marketing Association suggests rolling out promotions before and during your trade show.

Having special codes or offering additional deals can help your company stand out and attract attention.

Make a promotion specific to the event. You can be as creative as you want, and you should be, to ensure the highest ROI. In addition, you may even consider putting up a social media wall with your logos and run the promotion for those who will post, tag, and hashtag your company on social media in return for a professional picture or a gift.


As previously mentioned expert Comcowich suggests creating a landing page specific to your event. This allows you to have a quantifiable tool to measure your ROI. You will be able to gauge traffic to the landing page and tie it in specifically with your attendance at the trade shows and exhibitions.

Announce your plans to attend the trade show to your audience. Let people know what you are doing! Put out press coverage and market through your social media tools.

Jillian Tempestini provides some tips on how to monitor your social media before, during, and after an event. Make sure you are aware of any hashtags associated with the trade show you are attending and create hashtags of your own and encourage people to use them. Clever hashtags can be fun and serve a fundamental purpose of drawing people to your booth. Also, it can help when you launch your social media campaign before the actual event. Figure out what your customers like the most. What they want to see and what may attract them to your booth. Do your clients interact on Twitter or Facebook? Maybe LinkedIn is a better outlet for your audience. Find out so that you may present your information on the most viable platform.

Put someone in charge of your media marketing. It can become quite confusing if your entire staff is posting pictures, and updates. Plus it can become overwhelming for your audience to adapt to different styles of information. You want thoughtfully planned and executed posts that will showcase your product/company without becoming confusing or burdensome.

Do not just post content on social media.

Be sure to check post engagements, likes, shares, and note who is interacting with your company online. If there is a "shop now" button, check to see the number of clicks. Also, be sure to check your website traffic. Compare what it was before the trade show versus afterward. Be sure to count any new leads. This is important for your company when you are attempting to contact a new client base. With all this knowledge in hand, you can plan, perfect and execute a successful trade show event. For more creative ideas, check out our blog or call us to brainstorm together.

Keep in Touch

Prepare the post-event emails or mailing templates. It will save you time and will be less stressful during the first week of returning to work.

The rule of thumb is to send follow-up correspondence within the first 2 weeks.

Another excellent opportunity for your company is to become a speaker during the trade show. Ask for the opportunities to sponsor the happy hour, coffee breaks or other mingling events.

Also, if you want to offer refreshments, check the policies of the trade show hosts. Make sure that you are in compliance with requirements and policies.

Knowing your responsibilities ensures smooth operations and a fluid show experience.

Make sure that every participant knows his/her role.

In addition, know who is responsible for social media, refreshments, leads data generations, etc.

Comcowich identifies several trade show metrics that are important for your company to note.

Angie's note: I'm not sure this part fits here. It's talking about something happening at the even, and the heading is talking about keeping in touch after. I would put this in the during the show heading. And I would put the follow up part in the After the Show heading.


Make sure to begin your event with an inspiring morning meeting for all booth team participants. A positive mood will increase your success rate. In addition, make sure that all the booth attendees and special guests are checked in and taken care of. Ask and answer questions. Learn as much as possible. The audience came to the trade show for this purpose, and you will need to be able to provide the best solutions possible. Don't spend time with suppliers and friends. Your time at the trade show needs to be used efficiently. You can reap more benefits by engaging your existing, or future, clients and partners.

Comcowich suggests the use of a click or tracking badge scans as a way to determine the number of people who show interest at your booth. You should count your attendance throughout the day and average it so that you will be aware of who visited your booth and when. Social media is a useful and easy tool to determine attendance. In addition, check social media sites frequently before, during and after the event. Here, you can see if there is any new traffic generated from your booth or excitement over your product or technology. If someone has mentioned your company, note who they were: were they an attendee, a speaker, or competition?

Section in green here possibly.

Finally, if you offered refreshments during the show (especially if you marketed it), be sure to have enough for everyone. You don't want to run out before the end of the day! This sends a poor message to the preparedness of your company.


Now the event is over. The money has been spent, and the connections have been made (we hope). How do you tell if this was a successful event? How do you continue to ensure this success?

First, keep in touch. The stuff in blue here possibly.

Now, how does one calculate the effectiveness of a trade show? You must weigh the costs of the trade show versus the actual revenue generated.

Quantifying this can be easy or difficult, depending on what measures you put in place. Remember, with a well-executed trade show plan from beginning to end, you can easily follow-up on your results post-show, which will help you determine your ROI. Danny Lambert delves into this topic in his article, Trade Show ROI – Measuring Your Return on Investment.

First, you must take the tools you have already developed, including goals, social media marketing, and landing page or sales data, etc. Lambert suggests that collection of this data is crucial to understanding your ROI. He recommends using Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, to aid in this process. KPI's are defined as sets of data that measure booth traffic, leads, business cards that were handed out, purchases, and similar quantifiable factors.

Measuring with KPI

KPIs can lead to future marketing strategies, according to Lambert. He suggests using email sign-ups for future email campaigns, as well as any data obtained from kiosks and other methods used during the trade show to analyze and measure leads and data.

A simple method for future calculation can be something like asking clients how they found you. If you begin to see an uptick in new traffic following the trade show, be sure you understand whether this was a direct result of the show itself or from another source. Being aware of how your customers find you is crucial to understanding what works best for your company.

Measuring Leads Converted into Sales from Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Determine how to set values for your sales. Did you generate revenue from new/existing customers who saw you at the event? It is easy to quantify how much was spent, but that is not enough to understand your ROI. By setting sales revenue, you will have a number that will help you determine your ROI.

Creative Training suggests that you measure your leads converted into sales to better understand your ROI. This is where planning and necessary follow-through must be implemented. Get your team involved to quantify those results. Creating a lead form will help you compile this information during the trade show itself. With a proper form provided to salespeople, or through a kiosk at your booth, you can understand specific things about those who visited your booth and later plan and track the conversion.

Lead forms should include general information, facts about who is interested in your product, including business information, the role of the company, etc. Ask your connection how they would like to be contacted. You want to reach out to people on their desired path to achieve the best results.

Quantifying Benefits from Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Quantifying a desirable ROI is different for each trade show and each company. By doing that, you can understand your trade show attendance better and also make future assessments of what will work best for your company. Remember your results will vary from show to show. You should be aware of all of the key factors that will aid in your determination of ROI. There is not a simple solution. High leads do not always mean a high ROI. So, depending on your product, it may take weeks/months to close a sale. Also press coverage, brand recognition, and market research can all be earned at trade shows and exhibitions.

While it is true that coming up with your real ROI can be difficult, put some work into it and make the best out of every penny spent.

Know your status before and after trade shows and exhibitions. Who was a new client? Who was an existing client? Keep all these things in mind to come up with a cohesive picture of how the trade show affected your ROI. Run your numbers multiple times following the event. Sometimes it can take months for sales to be made or specific benefits of the trade show come to light. For that reason, keep data compiled for several months following the event. Finally, repeat this as needed.

Checklist for Data Acquisition After the Trade Shows or Exhibitions

Understand how much you've spent versus what benefits you have received at trade shows and exhibitions. Ask the following questions and record appropriate answers.

  • What was the most valuable part of the show? Why?

  • What was the least valuable part of the show? Why?

  • Were pre-show promotions effective? Why?

  • Was the location good? Why?

  • Were there enough (or too many) people in the booth? Why?

  • Was the size of the both appropriate? Why?

  • Were giveaways valuable? Why?

  • Were the right products on display? Why?

  • Did the signage convey the right message?

  • Should we do thistrade show again? Why?

  • What didn't work? Why?

  • How could we make it better?

What if your ROI is Unfavorable?

Let's say you have prepared thoroughly and done your due diligence, but you find your ROI to be unfavorable. So, is this a total loss? You can take even the most negative of outcomes and also use it for your future strategy. You can learn from what did not work out. Maybe you need to change which shows you attend or your


Remember, no specific approach is foolproof. Be thorough, plan ahead, and above all, do not give up. Learn from your achievements and failures to ultimately bring long-term success to your company.


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