Welcome to the Concrete Jungle: Critical Tips for First Time Exhibitors


So you’ve decided to exhibit at your first tradeshow? Congratulations! You have made a wise and prudent decision. Without question, tradeshows are one of your most effective sales and marketing media, if done properly. You can get more done in three or four days at the right show than you could in weeks or even months in the field, IF you are prepared to take advantage of the many opportunities a show presents.

However, be forewarned – many exhibitors enter the concrete jungle unprepared and fail to take advantage of the opportunities. They end-up making “expensive appearances” that deliver no meaningful or measurable contribution to their company’s sales and marketing objectives.

Here are 8 critical tips that will help you get off on the right foot and make your first tradeshow a highly productive and enjoyable experience and a profitable investment.

  1. Get Clear About What You Are Really Buying: Most exhibitors think they are buying floor space, exposure, leads and so on. Successful exhibitors realize they are buying face to face contact in an environment designed to facilitate interaction with a highly targeted market. Never forget this – tradeshows are about face!
  2. Give Yourself Enough Time to Execute an Effective Exhibit: Many first time exhibitors sign-up for shows too close to show time. Ideally, you should sign up at least four months before the show to give yourself time to plan and prepare for a successful show experience.
  3. Invest the Proper Amount in the Show: Another reason exhibitors don’t get the return they expected is they don’t invest enough money to make it work. The rule of thumb is floor space rental cost times three. Example: $2,500 floor space cost x three equals a $7,500 show budget, at least. However, if you are exhibiting in an inexpensive convention city, it’s a really large show, and the audience is a dead ringer match for your company, you may want to go floor space times five.
  4. Define Your Outcomes & Plan To Win: Many exhibitors rent space, send the exhibit, people, products and literature and hope things work out. Successful exhibitors ask this question: “At show closing time, within 90-180 days after the show, how we will know we were successful?” Their answer creates the specific outcomes they desire, and then they create plans for achieving those outcomes.
  5. Read the Exhibitor Service Manual Carefully: This critical document goes mostly unread by many exhibitors. It will answer many of your questions and direct you to resources you need to execute your exhibit. Not reading it can increase your costs by 30% or more because you may miss order deadline dates.
  6. Don’t Throw a Party Without Inviting Guests: Only 15% of exhibitors use targeted pre-show marketing to identify and attract enough of the right people to their exhibit. Be one of the 15%. The competition for an attendee’s time is fierce. The successful exhibitor gets on their target attendees “must-see” list before the show opens. Be sure to utilize every free opportunity provided by the show organizer.
  7. The Real Work Begins When the Show Closes: Exhibition industry research finds that only 13% of leads are followed-up. This is silently costing exhibitors hundreds of millions of dollars in unrealized business. Whatever you get at the show in terms of orders is just the tip of the iceberg. The real product of a tradeshow for most companies is qualified leads.
  8. Don’t Judge a Show From One Attempt: If a show has enough attendees that match your ideal customer profile, you should not judge the ultimate value of the show from one attempt. You should commit to at least three consecutive shows before making any judgment on the real value of the show. If you have a good quality product or service, are in the right show, and are doing the right things, there is no way you can fail.

These eight tips combined with your desire and commitment to continually learn more about exhibiting will not only get you off to a fast start, they will put you in the top 10% of exhibitors.  You won’t make expensive appearances, you’ll make money. And that’s the bottom line!