Successful Exhibiting Training Seminars


How to Milk a Trade Show  

Two things make or break your trade show success more than any other factors.  They are universal and inexpensive yet have the most amazing impact on your success – or lack of it.  

When you are considering exhibiting at a trade show you invariably open a Pandora’s Box of sure-fire success strategies from no end of persuasive people. Some examples… 

·         The Show Organiser’s sales people are emphatic that you HAVE to book NOW to get a great spot. Big is better and a corner stand is a must as they usually have a price loading. 

·         Stand builders vie for your dollar to make you the most memorable stand to magically entice fat-walleted buyers to clamour for your order form.  

·         Noisy people such as demonstrators and clowns are quite sure that you need THEM to draw a crowd – YOUR target market to a man and woman! 

·         Advertisers assure you that you’ll fail miserably unless you advertise in the Show Feature – and that you HAVE to keep that advertisement going at least four times for that essential “recognition”.  

While there is some truth in all (well, some) of this, the greatest truth is that it WILL devour budget and time in seriously large slabs.  When results cannot be perceived, well – you got BRANDING - which is often very hard to measure. 

Set Objectives

The first and most critical “thing” is to set appropriate Objectives. But hold on - doesn’t everyone?   

Not at all! Studies show that only around 45% of exhibitors actually HAVE appropriate Objectives. Perhaps even more interesting is that of those that do, 25% will ignore them when on the show floor. It’s hard NOT to forget your Objectives in the mind-numbing hum and bustle of the show as streams of people pass your stand.  

Your Objectives are the key to every part of your trade show experience. They determine which show(s) you participate in. They may determine the location of your stand, your stand message and activities, collateral (brochures, samples and giveaways), lead collection and post-show activities. They determine your pre-show promotions and will likely determine your staffing needs and focus too.  In short your Objectives are central to everything you do. 

So right at the beginning know exactly what you seek to achieve – and then focus everything you do on those precious Objective(s). 

Your Objectives can easily change from show to show. For any given show it is critical to write them down and constantly remind yourself and your Team exactly what you’re there for. 

The more Objectives you have the harder it is to stick with them so limit your number of “active” Objectives.  

Active Objectives are things that your Team must actively focus on while on the stand. Gathering leads or selling a particular product are examples. You can have more active Objectives by allocating them to different staff but DO keep a lid on them! 

There are also passive Objectives. An example of a passive Objective is branding. These are reflected by your stand, sponsorships and the like and don’t have to be focus for staff – but they DO in your planning and implementation.  

Your Objectives must be… 

·         Specific 

·         Measurable 

·         Realistic 

·         Accountable 


“We will sell our new striped milk”. “We will collect leads”. (What leads? Resellers, distributors, consumers?). “We will strengthen our brand” These are examples of specific Objectives and need to be written down and shared with your Team.


Place numbers on your Objectives. How MUCH striped milk will you sell? Or maybe how MANY new Customers will you sign up? How MANY leads will you collect, perhaps broken down into Target Markets such as resellers, distributors, consumers. How MUCH will you strengthen your brand and how will you quantify that? Now THERE is a great subject for another day…


Ensure that you goals are realistic – not so high that your Team don’t even try to reach them. And not too low either – as that is wasteful. Break them down into sensible “bites” such as leads per hour, dollar or unit sales per period (hour, day). Remember to take into account the flow of the show as almost all shows have peaks and lows and communicate this to your Team.


Exactly who is responsible for achieving your Objectives? Each Team Member must have individual targets appropriate to them – and someone (you?) must be ultimately responsible for your specific, measurable and realistic success.

Do It!

It is truly amazing easy it is to plan and implement your trade shows - and how much more effective every show you ever do is - when you take a little time to follow these really simple rules.  It costs nothing except that little donation of time – which you will recover many times over! 

Your Team will greatly appreciate your – and their- direction and focus – and their individual successes too.   

After a few shows you’ll have an easy template to help you with shows anywhere – but DO reflect that your Objectives will almost certainly be different at every show you do. 

Finish What You Start

One of the most neglected – yet profitable - areas of exhibiting at Trade Shows is post-show conclusion. 

They say that the job’s not done until the paperwork is complete and it would be hard to find an more perfect example of this fact than at trade shows.


A staggering 80% of leads are never ever followed up after a trade show. In fact the generally accepted number is slightly more – 83%. What does that say to enthusiastic buyers waiting for contact? How important and valued would you think they feel? Not very!

The reason for this strange situation comes down to planning. If yours is a small organisation and your show Team also have to follow up the leads, how realistic is that? Once back at the office there are accumulated emails, telephone calls, paperwork and the like – all screaming for attention.

So what is attended to first? That needs to be planned and accommodated so setting the rules BEFORE the show is imperative. 

It may be easier in larger organisations in that leads may go to telemarketing teams. But in reality the same people that were on the stand frequently need to be involved while they too have much “catch-up” to do.

Here’s a simple suggested solution. Add “show time” to the end of the show. For example, if the show was for three days, add another three days (or whatever number if appropriate) after the show and in that time ONLY work on show work, especially following up leads.

Even if you don’t seemingly HAVE formal leads to follow up (that is not always an Objective) you almost certainly met important industry contacts that you need to follow through on. Do it quickly – strike while the iron is smoking HOT!

There is a HUGE upside to this too. The statistics are on YOUR SIDE in that your competitors statistically will fail in this critical area – or follow up so late that they should be pink-faced with embarrassment. Of course that’s not guaranteed – they may be quick too (especially if they are reading this article). So when YOU follow up and THEY don’t, how good do you look?

Show Analysis

Go back over your Objectives – how did you go? This is immensely valuable information for the next time you exhibit creating benchmarks and controls that you will strive to beat at every show. Create your own statistics to make future planning and implementation MUCH more accurate.

How many samples did you give away? What sales did that yield? How many people came to your stand as a result of your promotions? What WERE those promotions? What went right? What went wrong? Were there unexpected costs? Did buyers “get” your message? What did the press say about the show? What did fellow exhibitors say? How do YOU and your Team feel about it? What opportunities did you see that you could adopt next time?

What competition was there? What was NOT there? What does that tell you? What were they doing? Does this give you any hint of their plans? You can do the same for “complementary companies” too. You make bread – they make butter. Can you spot synergies that you might home in on?

Go back and look at the show’s stated demographics – who they said would be there. Did that seem to be reflected in your experience? Why was that? Did they promote as they said they would? Did they draw YOUR Target Market?

There are a plethora of questions to be asked and answered – some objective, some subjective – all important.  The passage of time WILL dull your memory and beside, don’t YOU want to progress and leave a great planning legacy to whoever replaces you as you rise to higher things?

The End Is the Beginning

The end of the show is really the beginning of the next one. Did you miss out on some opportunity because you booked too late? Now’s your chance for next time! Can you snare that coveted “speaking slot” for the next show?

What design changes did you note for your stand? It helps greatly when you can SEE things for real rather than need to imagine or work with a drawing. You just completed the show so what did you decide that you needed to improve? Start work on that NOW! Write it down. Sketch the design. Commit to paper.  Sure – you have a LOT to catch up on but this will take moments and be a wonderful basis as soon as you can get to it.

In Conclusion

Your participation in trade shows everywhere can be vastly improved simply by taking care of the “ends” of the show. Planning and Mop-up.  Neither cost almost anything either in monetary or time terms yet that tiny investment and simple, careful planning easily make or break your show.

On the basis that the end of the show is the beginning of the next these invaluable yet mostly overlooked tools totally complement each other – and hold your entire show framework together.

Now – what will YOU be doing on the plane as you fly home from your next trade show?


Colin Green is a Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM – who trains exhibitors across Australia and New Zealand to excel when exhibiting across the nations or across the world. 

He has written ebooks on exhibiting and has authored an exhibiting DVD – available at 

Colin is the owner and Managing Director of Best of Show and lives in Sydney. You can contact Colin via the Contact Us Page

Copyright 2010 Best of Show P/L, Sydney, Australia 

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