The Intrepid Guide To Maximizing Trade Shows

I spend a lot of time hanging out at various trade shows, national association gatherings, annual sales meetings, and user conferences. Blows my mind how poorly most organizations handle gigs like this, wasting SO MUCH opportunity (and money).

After observing for all these years, here are a few thoughts on maximizing trade shows:

1. Go to your next show with a plan. If you plan to play it by ear and go with the flow, you will almost certainly fail.

2. Too many organizations go to trade shows with a goal of walking away with 2,000 new leads. When in fact, they should try to walk away with 50 to 100 REAL leads. (Note: This is from the context of the B2B leads 99% of my clients are seeking, not B2C…)

3. Your real success at a trade show depends on the work you do months before the trade show begins.

4. Scanning badges to collect thousands of email addresses is NOT how you collect “leads” at a trade show.

5. Scanning badges to collect thousands of email addresses is NOT even a good way to build your mailing list (if your true goal is to drive business growth).

6. FREE BEER may get a few people into your exhibit. But it sure won’t build viable leads.

7. The only thing you are accomplishing by giving away candy is the spread of diabetes.

8. Most likely, all of the major industry thought leaders and influencers are under the same roof as you. You are fool not to seek them out and learn something.

9. Do you really think you’re going to grow your business by giving away GoPro cameras and iPads through raffle drawings?

10. Meaningful face-time is everything. Collecting brochures and reading displays is nothing.

11. Why do teams at trade show exhibits all have to wear the same damn logo-wear golf shirts? Can’t we be individuals? Aren’t we individuals? I know we are a team, but do we have to look like some army marching in lock-step?

12. If you have to tackle me in the aisle to get my attention, you are doing things wrong.

13. If you look at attending a trade show as a way to escape the office, you should be fired. Immediately. And with malice.

14. Your organization probably paid $800 to rent that sofa for three days. And all you are doing is sitting on it to check your iPhone?

15. Do you need a 40X40 space when a 10X10 will do?

16. If you have to exhibit at the industry trade show to be seen as viable in your market, there is something terribly wrong with your market.

17. You really should be thinking about approaching your trade show experience as a full-on campaign, one that lives before, during, and after the exhibition itself.

18. I’m still amazed at the poor follow-up post-show. Most prospects are NOT ever contacted again following the show. Why did you even bother attending the exhibition in the first place???

19. Do you actually have a plan with all those business cards you just collected? For what it’s worth, I always makes simple notes on the business cards I collect…as I get them. Because I will NEVER remember post-show.

20. I am amazed at the special events that so many organizations host at trade shows, and I’ve attended some that had to cost half a million. In my modern view of business, simply “outspending” the competition isn’t going to work anymore.

21. So many people standing around waiting for something to happen. And with all those prospects walking around the hall. Why are you even there?

22. Tchotchke giveaways: the biggest waste of time and money in the history of trade shows. Although great for giving the kid a gift, especially when you forgot to get them a real gift and the airport gift shop just won’t cut it.

23. I’ve never understood why an organization exhibited dozens and dozens of products and demos, when only two or three products really moved the needle at the show. Why not focus on the small handful of products that the market really cares about? Why spend thousands transporting products most people don’t care about?

24. It always frustrates me when someone says “the trade show didn’t go well for us.” Really? If you are saying this, you didn’t plan well, missed the prospects walking right under your noses, and you didn’t take advantage of all the educating and learning. Shame on you.

25. Why are your displays so complex and full of copy? Do you really think most people are going to stop and spend ten minutes readying all of that stuff?

26. Why are you not incorporating a more mobile-friendly presence for you and your organization? Trade show attendees are getting younger and younger…

27. And if you complain about the conference, trade show, and exhibition, host your own damn event then.

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Video: Here is what I am usually doing at trade shows!

And yes, in case you are wondering, here are some ways we help our clients with maximizing their trade show investment…

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Todd Schnick

Todd Schnick

Editor-In-Chief at intrepid.media
Founder and Editor-In-Chief of intrepid.MEDIA, Todd Schnick is a media + business strategist and talk show host + producer. He is a former marketing strategist, national political operative, and lobbyist. Todd has published five books, writes a business + lifestyle column, is a distance runner, and lives in Chicago with his wife Stephanie + family.
Todd Schnick
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The author

Founder and Editor-In-Chief of intrepid.MEDIA, Todd Schnick is a media + business strategist and talk show host + producer. He is a former marketing strategist, national political operative, and lobbyist. Todd has published five books, writes a business + lifestyle column, is a distance runner, and lives in Chicago with his wife Stephanie + family.

2 thoughts on “The Intrepid Guide To Maximizing Trade Shows”

  1. Todd – great post! Lately, we’ve been discussing how to use trade show opportunities effectively in sales. Your comment about focusing on gaining a smaller number of real leads is very valid and worth consideration for every B2B sales professional. Thanks for your work.

    1. Yeah, walking out of a show with FEWER leads is counterintuitive. But, as you know, fewer quality leads are better than a lot of lousy, useless ones. I fear that most organizations don’t have the courage to come back from a show with fewer leads. There is always someone in management looking to justify the spend with a BIG list of (useless) prospects. Thanks for reading!

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