How to get the most out of exhibiting (in-person or online)

How to get the most out of exhibiting (in-person or online)

What to consider if you’re planning to invest in a physical trade show or online event?

Exhibitions and trade fairs have been a mainstay of commercial activity since as early as the 18th century, giving rise to a growing global trade show culture throughout the 20th century, with purpose-built centres playing host to almost every industry imaginable. [footnote] [/footnote] For most types of business with a product or service to sell, physical exhibitions would normally be a mainstay of the marketing calendar, and often a substantial part of annual sales budgets. National lockdowns and travel restrictions silenced many of the world’s exhibition halls throughout 2020 and into 2021, giving rise to engagement in a number of ‘virtual trade show’ and online conferencing platforms. It’s clear that the physical trade fair will return to its former glory when people are allowed to travel and to congregate again, but it is fully expected to be accompanied in some way more than ever before, but its digital counterpart.

Just as we make use of any other marketing platform, be-it social media, billboards, TV adverts or mailshots, exhibitions are an opportunity to show off your product or service to your target market and hopefully outshine your competitors. Get it right and your return on investment will be considerable. Get it wrong and you won’t achieve much at all. The following provides a basic checklist for your activities. Our specialists have experience in marketing and exhibiting all over the world and can advise on specific activities. To talk through your exhibition plans today, get in touch!

How to get the most out of your trade show or exhibition


  • Define your objectives for the event

    – how many expressions of interest to develop into how many sales?

  • Commit to a budget and identify the ROI in both time and cost

  • Make sure you have the right materials, including:

    – Your investor packs and/or your marketing material
    – Scope of design if appropriate
    – Pop ups or, backgrounds for your screen (if on-line) with your website address in full view
    – If overseas visitors are likely, prepare a document with your messaging translated into several languages on it so that people understand that you don’t speak their language but if they register on your page on your website you will get back to them with an interpreter.
    – When on-line make sure you have an appropriate avatar for when you wish to eat/drink or leave the show, so people do not see an empty seat or booth.
    – on a physical stand, make sure designate ONE person to be ‘stand manager’ responsible for keeping the stand tidy and managing lunch/toilet breaks to ensure your stand is always manned and looks its best
    – Order T-shirts or polo shirts embroidered with your logo to wear at the event
    – Work out how you will collect and collate names and contact details

  • Write to potential customers inviting them to see you at the event

  • Plan and implement your social media campaign

  • Practice your elevator pitch

  • Understand your terms of sale that include:

    – capacity to fulfil orders
    – pricing schedules and/or discounts
    – currency requirements
    – lead times


  • Collect details from potential customers/investors

    – be courteous and patient while people give you their details

  • Make sure you tell people about your website/newsletter/case studies

  • Do not misunderstand success as numbers of enquiries, the only metric is conversion to sales (and/or investment)

  • Be adaptable and engaging, listen more than talk

  • Send out Tweets, Linked in posts advertising that you are there and open to meetings or discussions

  • Be as gracious at the end of the day as you were at the start


  • Follow up significant or serious enquiries with a phone call within 2 days of attendance

  • Send a personalised thank you email to everyone else who attended your stand within 3 days

  • Understand your data

    how many fruitful conversations (or not) have you had? List the countries/sectors/professions/roles of those enquiring and, most importantly, track the number of companies that become customers

  • Monitor ROI for the time and effort to prepare for this sort of event

    invaluable for future decisions on participation in other events


  • If you are attending in person, wear comfortable shoes!

    Many exhibition halls have concrete floors and exhibition carpet is extremely thin, if you’re lucky enough to have any. Several days of standing still on this type of surface is very hard on the feet.

  • If you are attending on-line think about the colours, patterns and style of what you wear.

    Plenty examples on social media of what not to wear and what looks good!

Attending exhibitions and trade shows, although costly and time-consuming compared to some modern, direct-marketing methods, can be an extremely powerful and lucrative way to market your product or service. Your visitors can get close to your product, talk to you in-person and take away a lasting impression that can be the start of a great relationship. It’s a great chance to arrange to meet new and existing clients in their own territory at your stand to give them an up-close and personal demonstration of your products and capabilities. It’s also a great opportunity to get the measure of your competitors!

Choosing the right show

How do you know you’re booking space at the right exhibition? There are usually a lot more exhibitions that seem relevant to your product/service/industry than you have the capacity to attend. Some will be more fruitful than others occasionally, there will be shows that look good on paper, but turn out to be completely unsuitable for your business.

Ask for attendance record samples

A good show will be able to provide a sample list of the type of visitors they attract. Usually a list of 100 or so company names and example job-titles. Do bear in mind that this is likely to have been chosen to reflect an upper-end of the cross section, but once you’ve seen a few lists, you’ll get a rough idea of how to read them.

Look at where your competition exhibits

If you’ve done your research, you’ll know who your competitors are in each market, and a bit of extra digging should a least reveal where they’ve exhibited in the past, if not where they’re planning to exhibit in the future. Regular attendance at a particular show by your competitors is a fairly good indication that it’s worth considering

Walk the show beforehand

Despite potentially adding delays to the process of exhibiting (particularly for annual or biennial shows) the best way to get a feel for an exhibition, its physical setup, the footfall and exhibitors is to attend as a visitor yourself. Not only can this help you to evaluate the show from a commercial angle, but can be extremely beneficial when planning your own presence at the next event. Walking shows can be a valuable and wholesome experience and you’re likely to come away filled with ideas (as well as an obligatory, printed cotton bag full of free pens).

Whether you’re considering exhibiting abroad or in the UK, online or in-person, our highly experienced specialists can help. Get in touch today!

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