The UK Trade Show industry has an £11 billion impact on the UK economy, with over 900 shows a year taking place. Getting the most out of a trade show depends on a few things. Picking the right arena for the business to shine is very important – aiming for smaller venues where staff will have the chance to catch the eye and give potential customers one-to-one treatment is the ideal. Getting good information from attendees – what they want, their budget etc – is central to getting solid leads and assessing the success of your booth. Following up with leads is perhaps the most important part of the whole process; after all, that’s the reason why you set up the booth in the first place. Taking good care of these leads and following up properly is the difference between the endeavour being a success and a failure.

For a small business, a trade show can represent a host of benefits – increased visibility for the business and brand, meeting potential customers and seeing new industry developments first hand are just a few of the potential perks of the trade show. However, be aware of the costs (both financial and time) that a well-executed trade appearance cost. Having the right approach and knowing your aims is essential if the business is going to appear at a trade show. Done right, tradeshows can give a great return on investment.

Learn about Trade Shows

Before jumping in head first, it pays to get to understand how trade shows operate. Ideally, you will want to visit some before you decide to become an exhibitor.

  • Walk the floor to get a feel for how businesses conduct themselves and entice foot traffic

  • How do the most popular booths do so well? Is there anything you can emulate?

  • Make appointments to speak with specific vendors

  • Scan the marketplace for suppliers

  • Use the opportunity to keep an eye on your competitors

As well as serving as research, attending trade shows as a visitor can help you with networking. A report by the Professional Convention Management Association uncovered that 86 percent of respondents indicated that a primary reason for attending trade shows was to network.

If you are a new business, then events like tradeshows represent a goldmine of potential contacts. From other exhibitors to potential customers, there is no telling who you may meet at a trade show.

Ask your existing customers if they attend trade shows and, if so, which ones. They could lead you to a raft of likeminded customers. You can also ask a trade association about upcoming and recommended industry events. There are comprehensive websites that have specific search criteria for trade shows, enabling you to find some choice events. If you plan to exhibit, an important part of your strategy is knowing what shows to attend. Aiming for the largest trade shows is probably not a good idea; if a show is large and encompasses many different business sectors, then a small business can easily get lost in the mire.

Bigger businesses are going have bigger booths with more alluring features – that just comes from having a bigger budget. As a smaller business, smaller shows are preferable. Industry specific trade shows are ideal. When smaller businesses have the chance to interact with attendees on a personal level, they can have much more success. With a good, friendly presence and a clear product offering, these smaller shows are much friendlier to the small business.

Learn as much as you can about how to be a successful exhibitor and how to turn that into contacts and sales. Arming yourself with these skills will only make it easier when you are the one in the booth.


Make the Trade Show a Success

Once you have made the decision to exhibit, it pays to have your goals and strategies in place. You need to nail down practical things such as:

  • The staff needed to run the booth.

  • Hours and breaks of the staff running the booth.

  • Plenty of business literature and materials: brochures, business cards and so forth.

  • The hiring and transportation of your booth.


Hire Booths come in a number of different forms, with varying sizes, shapes and themes all available. The decision rests on your budget and the size of your pitch at the show. Arranging and staffing the booth well is just as important as how it looks. Do away with any barriers such as screens or desks. The aim is to be as open and welcoming as possible.

Prospective customers will be more inclined to step into your booth if you have an exciting and open layout. If a customer can learn about your business via interactive means:

  • Touchscreens

  • Short video(s)

  • Giveaways – pens, cards, stickers (yes, they might be unoriginal, but still tend to get people to slow down!)


All the above give lets them take in what you are all about quickly and easily. If you are hoping to keep the business in the mind of the client via giveaways, make them something useful. Things like flyers and stress balls deduct from your budget and give the potential customer dead weight to carry around. Positioning can also be important. A booth host at the ‘front door’ of the booth, facing out on to the passing crowds, creates a much friendlier, open invitation than someone sat at the back of the booth behind a desk.

The workers staffing the booth should also be aware of how their body language and behaviour will affect the business’s success at the exhibition. If they are texting, eating, or clustered together talking, then these are all things that will turn people away from your business.  If they are friendly, informed, and proactive, then this can only lead to positive gains. Staff need not be afraid to engage potential clients at exhibitions. Everyone is there to seek out new businesses and contacts. If they in the booth then they are likely interested in the business. Make sure that when staff is interacting with clients that are interested, that staff record all of the relevant information. Doing this face-to-face helps to define what the customer might want, their budget, purchasing power within their business, and so on.

Evaluating the Show

After the show is over and the booth is packed away, take time to debrief staff and find out how they felt it went. This is a good time to assess whether you had enough staff and if they felt prepared. You can also see how they did generating contacts and leads, and match up their comments to your own observations and the information generated. All of this will help you decide if it has been a worthwhile exercise. Do focus on what went wrong as well as the positives, as this is just something to improve upon if you decided to do it again.

Following up on leads made at shows is of paramount importance. They are as fresh as leads come, and the business will still be alive in the mind of the would-be customer. Exploiting these golden leads will, if not result in a direct sale, cement the relationship with your business and/or potentially add value to your network.

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