Smarter Marketing Blog

How to Boost Your Efforts and Get the Most Out of Trade Shows


Trade shows, conferences, seminars, meet-ups etc. are very powerful marketing mediums, because they can bring together hundreds or thousands of people, in one place and in a short space of time. They do mean busy days though, with lots of people milling around and lots of conversations.

Whether you’re an event planner, a trade show veteran or attending your first event, we have tips below that will help you engage with people and make connections. If you haven’t time to read on, here’s a simple spoiler:

Maximise your time at a trade show by ensuring that all of your conversations are as meaningful as possible . Thereafter, if you are set-up to nurture leads, back at your office, then the trade show will have been a success.

Speaking of success, what’s driving me to write this particular post is the forthcoming event. Not only because it is imminent (26th April – City West Hotel, Dublin), but because I recently met with the owner/organiser, Barbara Gordon. When asked, she explained to me, why she is involved in something outside of her comfort zone i.e. she is not a formal event planner/organiser.

When the first shoots of Ireland’s economic recovery started to appear, Barbara, herself a small business owner – – felt that small and medium enterprises (SMEs), should be able to benefit from it as well as the large corporates. Her idea was to organise an inexpensive platform for Irish start-ups and surviving SMEs, to showcase their wares and attract new business.

True to her word, Barbara organised (with no professional help), the first BizExpo in 2011. Next week’s event is the culmination of six years’ experience, support from a team of friends, loads of stress and hard work.

There will be over 135 exhibitors and just over 1,000 people (no admission fee) have registered to attend next week. “I remain true to my original goal of attracting small to medium sized businesses, from around the Country, to showcase their work, to grow, prosper and engage with people outside of their normal networking area”….says Barbara.

What strikes me about this event is Barbara’s selfless rationale. She runs the event on a breakeven basis and on her own time. That being said, she has become very adept at securing ‘voluntary’ inputs. Her only mission is to ensure that Irish SMEs have a platform to grow and, oh yeah – she runs her own successful business as well. Congrats Barbara.

Register here and get yourself out to the City West Hotel on the 26th April and experience the optimism for yourself. Sure, you might even do a little business, while you’re there.

We Love a Good Lanyard – Don’t We?


Whether as an organiser, an exhibitor or an attendee, I believe that we all love a good lanyard. It can be a symbol of exclusivity, access behind the scenes, a VIP, a guest speaker or indeed celebrity. Right here, beside my desk, I have a box full of lanyards from all of these roles (not celebrity, I might add). I was thinking to myself what is it about this simple piece of plastic that binds people at an event together. With, in my mind, I thought a recap on investing your time at trade shows, might be opportune.

I intend breaking the post into three sections (types of lanyard) that will address tips for a) the event organiser, b) the exhibitor and c) the attendee.

The Organiser’s Lanyard for Trade Shows.

Trade Shows VIP Access

Events are constantly changing, driven by technology and attendees’ expectations. As a result, organisers need to stay on top of current trends. We have all attended events that have a stale feel to them, which I believe is due to the organiser using tactics that no longer work.

Here are some of those tactics that might not work for you:

  • Not personalising the message. With today’s technology, there is no excuse for sending out the one-size-fits-all email message to everyone.
  • Choosing speakers that you like to hear. Attendees want maximum value for giving up their time. Listening to a speaker splurge about their own company is not what they want to hear.
  • Using social media as poster advertising. Whilst social media is a wonderful medium for engaging people, video and images should be the focus for engagement, not text.
  • Not staying connected with past attendees. For instance, there is no excuse for not undertaking remarketing campaigns or building online groups/communities to stay in touch.
  • Believing everybody still uses their PC for registrations etc. Adapt your web design and event technology to take account of this. Think mobile.
  • Cold Calling and Spam. If people aren’t interested don’t waste your time and money. Blanket marketing is rarely effective.
  • Registration Queues. Use auto-check- ins, scanners, apps etc. and avoid annoying the very person you want to impress.

Business Events Are Experiential Brand Marketing Platforms

If you are an organiser, and the event is to be a platform offering an experience of your brand, your goal is to ensure that the attendee becomes a repeat customer, again and again. The minute you take the eye off this ball, your attendees’ needs will be unmet and your event will fade into the noise of similar shows.

So, if you are never to fail your attendees again, here are 10 simple event mistakes that should be avoidable in this day and age:

  • The event website is the event’s front door, make it user-friendly and responsive
  • Excellent external directional signage is a must have
  • Good WiFi is as much a requirement as good toilets are
  • Communicate the event’s schedule in a clear and simple way (apps?)
  • Give advance notice of the event #hashtag and twitter handle (if appropriate)
  • Use a previous year’s video highlights to promote
  • Mix-up the speakers – male, female, topic, geographic etc.
  • Cater for people with disabilities
  • Have a wow-factor during the day – for people to remember
  • Have good food options and watch the alcohol availability
  • Protect your attendees’ data from spam operators

The Exhibitor’s Lanyard for Trade Shows.

Trade Show Access All Areas

Trade shows should form part of a business’s marketing activity. With the right event, a large portion of attendees will be your business’s target audience. Other reasons why an exhibition might prove to be worth the expense would be, nurturing relationships, generating leads, sales, or because competitors are there.

I believe there are three basic benefits to exhibiting. First of all, it facilitates brand recognition. The second is that it provides an opportunity for real face time and thirdly, it offers the potential to build a prospect list.

Like the list of mistakes outlined above, for organisers, there are sins to avoid for exhibitors but there are also things to do that will help your return on investment.

Here are 16 quick tips that we have found to be important:

  1. Have business objectives in place before the event so as to quantify your return
  2. Check the exhibitor’s agreement for what’s/what’s not supplied to avoid last minute panic
  3. Promote the event like you’re the organiser
  4. Consider your stand’s design/graphics so as to communicate effectively – you have about 7 seconds to attract a passer-by. Oh, and stand, don’t sit
  5. Dress professionally and appropriately for the event but be comfortable (no chaffed collars or new shoes)
  6. Do not put a shy staff member on the stand – they are your brand’s touchpoint. They must smile and make eye contact – no chatting with friends on the mobile
  7. Never eat at the stand
  8. You or your staff must know your elevator pitch, everything about the company and be prepared to listen. The visitor should always walk away with information (e.g.flyer)
  9. Do not discuss prices of your product/service with a nod-and-a-wink. Be transparent
  10. Use technology to capture leads – it’s more impressive nowadays
  11. Offer business cards to people who genuinely appear to be interested or will accept a call from you after the event (some exhibitors leave cards on a table – I’m not one of them)
  12. Focus on meaningful conversations with attendees – not other exhibitors (unless they are a prospect)
  13. If possible, avail of the opportunity to be a guest presenter/speaker
  14. Get back to new connections quickly and have a plan for follow-up
  15. Never pack up early – it reflects badly on you and the organiser. Anyway you need to milk your investment
  16. Enjoy yourself – being relaxed portrays your personal brand in a better light

Trade shows such as the are invaluable opportunities for networking, especially if you are a start-up or building your brand presence. Making connections with potential partners, new leads and nurturing relationships is the name of the game.

The Attendee’s Lanyard for Trade Shows.

Trade Shows Lanyard

Most events will provide a list of exhibitors on their website. We would recommend that as an attendee you go over the list in advance and decide who you want to see or talk to. You might even be able to arrange appointments.

If you research the schedule, you should plan what presentation, workshop or forum you would like to attend. Also, decide what you would like to learn from a specific exhibitor. For instance, I am aware that the is planning to have a ‘Knowledge Hub’ manned with experts that can answer a myriad of relevant questions for SMEs. Attendees should prepare questions in advance.

Another time-saving method, I have used when attending trade shows, is to map out your initial route to ensure that you get to the most important exhibits (that you’ve identified) first. This saves time walking around looking for exhibits of interest.

Many people feel bad about walking by an exhibit without engaging the smiling person behind the table – don’t. Just like you, they are attending the event to generate new business and don’t want to waste time talking to somebody who isn’t a potential customer.

It can be difficult to lug around a plastic bag full of brochures etc. so choose wisely. Only take those that you actually want – and you definitely do not need 50 promotional pens. Go one step further and bring your own bag to carry brochures, catalogues and product samples, if that’s what you’re there for.

Use your time wisely to meet potential customers, get intelligence on your competition and make industry contacts. Here are some top-of-mind reasons to visit a trade show:

  • Interact with peers in your industry and discover trends
  • Get new ideas for your business
  • Evaluate competitive products, suppliers and prices
  • Place orders / negotiate contracts
  • See novelties / latest innovations
  • Get specific products/services
  • Deepen your knowledge
  • Nurture existing relationships with customers
  • Generate new business contacts
  • Attend workshops, networking or panel discussions
  • Get away from your office/place of work to a neutral environment


I have referred to the from three different points of view, symbolised by lanyards. There are many tips included above and I didn’t really get into the marketing of events, as such. So, to finish, I will address an organiser’s scenario of having only one week left to an event and a need to promote it.

We recommend you continue to use normal promo channels such as email, flyers and free listing sites. Here are 5 other tips that may be used to bolster activity:

Social – change your social media profile pics to the event logo

Website – Put a big banner on your own website to catch visitors’ attention

Sponsors – Get your sponsors to spread the word through their own channels

Competition – Develop an online competition (e.g. tickets for retweets)

Video – distribute a video of a previous event or create an animated one

Remember, today, a great event and location are not enough to guarantee return attendance. You have to make sure that your event remains top-of-mind throughout the year and pitched at the right price to keep attracting attendees.

See you at the

“Thank you for reading our blog post today – Aidan & Jim.

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2 responses to “How to Boost Your Efforts and Get the Most Out of Trade Shows”

  1. Trade shows are a great medium to portray your products to a large amount of target audience. Best way to earn valuable clients!

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