Sonas Blog

24 Trade Show Tips to Plan for Your Next Successful Event

Posted by Laura Olvera on Apr 10, 2016 6:24:15 PM
Laura Olvera
Find me on:

Trade shows are great fun and hard work. They have a success strategy all their own. A successful trade show – well-planned, properly staffed and professionally executed – will keep paying for itself for a long time. Trade show success begins with planning. The plan begins with ‘The Big Why.’

 Why Do a Trade Show?

There are lots of reasons. Most reasons include the following:-

  • We get to meet lots of prospective and current customers in one place and in a short period
  • We get to launch new products
  • We show a lot of visitors how they will benefit from buying from us
  • We get great publicity that we can use in our future marketing campaigns
  • We can confirm current orders and win new business


The list goes on. Exhaust the list. Know every possible reason why you should be at the trade show. Then refine the list into primary and secondary goals. Link the goals to each of your current corporate goals. The trade show must deliver on the corporate goals that everyone is already working to achieve. Now you have real clarity. Now you know the cost and effort of the show will be rewarded with specific and measurable objectives.

Create your trade show plan.

Every detail of the plan must be tested on the anvil of those goals. 

There are 8 main plan elements. Each one breaks down into sub-elements. As you focus on your plan you will expand the elements to suit your business, your culture, your market and, of course, your goals. The 8 main trade show plan elements are:-

  1. Goals agreement from all involved
  2. Trade show promotion
  3. Corporate and specialist staffing
  4. Stand design and on-site construction
  5. Trade show and stand practicalities
  6. On-stand performance
  7. Record-keeping and follow-up
  8. Measuring trade show success through goal achievement

Some of the elements are obvious - how to promote the show, what sort of stand to have, who will staff it, etc. Some elements are not so obvious - goal agreement, on-stand performance, record-keeping and follow-up, for example.

Many trade shows are quite successful. You want totally successful; 'quite' won't hack it. Many trade shows fall below 'total success' because 'the obvious things' were ignored. To use an analogy, for a moment. How many contestants on 'The Amazing Race' get eliminated because they fail to read the instructions properly? You would think it's obvious that if you're in a race against time for a prize of $1 million you should read the instructions. The only people who get eliminated from trade shows are your stand visitors. Keep that in mind - fail to plan to get all the details right and you might just eliminate prospective customers from becoming actual customers.

Let’s look at each of those elements again. In a brief article, like this, we can't provide a comprehensive manual of trade show tips, all we can do is point you in the right direction. So here goes:-

 1. Get Full Agreement on the Goals from All Involved.

  • This includes senior management, whether they are directly involved in the show itself or not. If trade shows are run-of-the-mill to you, then this is less important but if it’s a big deal for your company, you want total sign-in
  • You definitely want all stand personnel in total agreement because what they do and say will have most impact on every single visitor – the invited customer, the invited prospect, the casual visitor, the returning visitor. Your staffers must be on the ball for every situation
  • Your stand designers and construction guys must see your stand as a vehicle for success, not just a nicely put-together display that looks good in the corporate video. Stand designers know how to design entry points, meet-and-greet points, discussion areas, demonstration areas, etc. Use their expertise.

2. Trade Show Promotion

  • Personal invitations – what will they look like, what will they say, what benefits will they offer to the different invited guests?
  • Trade magazine ads – full page, half page, inserts? RSVP instructions?
  • Social media promotion and invitations?

3. Corporate and Specialist Staffing

  • Decide who will be on the stand – sales personnel, technical specialists, meet-and-greeters?
  • How will they be trained to deliver on their goals?
  • What should their clothes/outfits communicate to visitors and passers-by?

4. Stand Design and On-Site Construction

  • What instant message should the stand communicate?
  • How will the size, layout, materials, utilities (power, sound, internet, etc) support the goals?
  • How will the furniture, displays, demonstration equipment be installed, tested and maintained?

5. Show and Stand Practicalities

  • Does everyone – from construction team to specialist staffers - know what they can and cannot do? (show organizers have rules)
  • How will the staff attendance roster be arranged?
  • How will sales presentations be reserved for the demo areas?

6. On-Stand Performance

  • Has every detail from 'meet-and-greet' to ‘fond farewell' been practiced?
  • How will inactive stand personnel behave, so they attract and not repel visitors?
  • How will they stand in for each other in case someone becomes unavailable?

7. Record Keeping and Follow-Up

  • What will be recorded about every visitor?
  • Where will the records be safely kept?
  • How will visitors be categorized so the follow-up is personal and effective?

8. Measuring Success Through Goal Achievement

  • Every element of the show, from stand functionality to staff activity must be reviewed
  • The reviews get compared to each appropriate goal so the next show will be even more successful
  • Sales, visitor numbers, publicity, overall business won (or saved) must be measured, to quantify the show’s success

You want your trade show to deliver success,  prosperity and happiness to all concerned. When the show is a success your company will become more prosperous, and your customer base will be happier. These tips cover the basics but they only scratch the surface for total success. We are experts in our field and will be delighted to work with you to make your show succeed. Please click here to contact us so we can begin the journey.

Get a Quote

Tags: Trade Shows