Monday, February 28, 2011

Making the Most of Trade Shows, Expos, and Conferences

I spent a few days last week at an expo and a separate conference and, as always, was surprised at how few exhibitors and speakers had properly prepared for success. And that was just from my surface observations.

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of possible preparations and actions, simply following these few key items would have made for a much more successful event for many of the companies that spent plenty of time and money to be in these shows. Here’s my short list of tips:

:: Decide what you want out of the show/expo/conference at the beginning of your planning, then create targeted actions based on your strategy. Capturing every attendee’s business card for a TV giveaway isn’t necessarily a good idea if your target audience is a small segment of those in attendance.

:: Give passers-by a reason to engage with the people at your booth. Far too many people set a table up at the front of the booth and sit behind it. Bad idea. Be accessible. Getting people out of the flow of traffic in the aisles into your booth can bring much better results in most cases.

:: Have a 3-second pitch to stop qualified attendees in their tracks. “How you doing?” isn’t what I’m talking about, either. At one show I helped a client prepare for, their pitch was this simple question: “Did your company have to fire more than 10 employees last year?” Everything about their booth asked this question and drew people in. They only talked to their target audience (HR managers with pain points surrounding employee turnover due to performance problems). The quality of their leads was impressive. No, they didn’t leave the show with the 1,500 business cards the people in the neighboring booth had; but they did leave with a few hundred qualified leads with whom they had meaningful conversations and specific follow-up agreements. They didn’t have to wade through the looky-loos to get to the serious prospects after the show.

:: Follow up. I’ve gone so far as to create business cards with specific, trackable contact information on them to give to exhibitors at events just to see how the follow-up is handled. Sadly, by far the majority of vendors never follow up at all. Why do the show and gather the information if you’re not going to proactively use it after the show?

Having a complete plan that addresses strategies and activities before, during, and after trade shows, expos, and conferences will help you meet the right people and achieve your desired results. Maybe I’ll write a book on this topic some day. For now, I hope these tips are helpful.

Here’s to your live event success!

Bryan Waldon Pope


  1. Good Ideas. I attended the Big Business fair last week with Jeanne and we found the same things to be true that you were discussing. I had a goal to talk to as many exhibitors as I could that might be of help to my business, but sadly there were many who promoted the idea that they could do everything and more for us and I just didn't believe them.

    By the way, did you notice that we highlighted you in our Feb newsletter that we sent out?

  2. David,

    I hope the show garnered some positive results for you. It's interesting how different it is year to year. Always good, I believe, but the energy is found in different areas each time.

    I didn't see the highlight in your newsletter. Post the link in this thread and I'll check it out. Thanks for being an advocate!