blurred image of a people at a trade show

Not all that long ago it seemed like trade shows might go the way of the fax machine.

Marketing executives were being pressed to show a return on an increasingly expensive investment. Attendance at many trade shows was leveling off or declining. Some brands were bold enough to give up booth spaces they’d been exhibiting in for decades.

Savvy marketers understood that you didn’t have to spend a bundle on a 20 x 20 patch of padded carpet to engage with customers. Advancements in technology meant you could bring the show directly to your customers’ inboxes and screens. It was easy then to look out across a cavernous convention center — footsore, fatigued, and wondering if time could move any slower — and think there had to be a better way.

Then the pandemic hit and forced us to experience a world without in-person events.

Turns out, there’s a limit to how effective virtual events can be — and the extent to which your audience will engage with your brand on a screen.

Nothing can quite replace the impact of a major trade show. Fortunately, it looks as if 2023 will be the first full year when many trade shows, including CONEXPO-CON/AGG, will be back to their normal schedules. We'll be paying close attention to attendance figures and the general buzz coming out of these events.

In the meantime, here’s what you need to know before you go. Don’t dread trade show duty; instead, focus on getting the most out of your experience. Your No. 1 priority is likely to drive traffic and generate qualified leads, but there are ways to maximize your trade show experience for yourself. 

“Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to mix and mingle with key players in your industry. Don’t pass up these chances.”

Build Your Network

Whether you’re catching up with old friends and colleagues or making new connections, it’s important to put yourself out there. Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to mix and mingle with key players in your industry. Don’t pass up these chances.

Attend networking events. From happy hours and parties to coffee breaks and early morning runs, there are so many opportunities to meet people. Bring a “say yes” attitude to the week and introduce yourself to everyone you can. You never know where those discussions could lead.

Check Out the Competition

A trade show is the one venue where your competitors let it all hang out. Many brands use trade shows as an opportunity to tease future products and innovations. Swing by the competition’s booth to see what they are excited about and what they’re investing in. You won’t get a better chance to get this much insight about what your competitors are doing.

Make a Splash

If you’re not getting a return on your trade show investment, it might be time to reconsider how you’re showing up. A trade show isn’t the place to play it safe. Bring the boldest version of your brand to the show. Rolling out the same old, tired booth setup isn’t going to cut it. The best booths draw people in. They entertain as well as inform.

Don’t just display your products — bring them to life in the way that makes the most sense for your brand. Treat your booth as a central hub of activity by scheduling events and hosting seminars, meetings, and press conferences. Use social media and digital tactics to provide updates from the booth, feature executives and SMEs, and share the latest news and updates. Keep the attention focused on your booth and the ROI will follow.

Have Fun

If trade shows make you think of long hours on your feet and days of mindless small talk, then perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach. Most major trade shows are hosted in destination cities like Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans, and San Diego. Excellent food and unique entertainment are often a short walk or cab ride away from the convention center. Resist the urge to hole up in your hotel room. Make time to take in the sites and experience what these cities have to offer.

And Yes, Sell Something

At the end of the day, marketing executives are still being pressed to show a return on these increasingly costly events. The good news is that it’s never been easier to show a return. Most trade shows now equip exhibitors with the technology to scan attendee badges to generate leads and measure booth traffic. Take full advantage of these technologies not just by scanning badges, but also by following up with leads after the show. Train your staff on how to use the technology and ask the right questions to make sure the lead is qualified.

Surrounding the show with your smartest and most targeted marketing tactics will let potential customers know you mean business. Just don’t make the experience all about business.

We hope to see you at one of the many trade shows our clients will be exhibiting at this year. Say hello if you are there!

We Can Help

Have a trade show question or need help with your booth? Two Rivers has the experience, creativity, and know-how to help take your trade show presence to the next level. Send us a note to get started.