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100 Trade Show Lead Generation Ideas

100 Trade Show Lead Generation IdeasFor most exhibitors, lead generation is their #1 reason for exhibiting at trade shows.  Exhibit marketers want leads to replenish their sales pipeline, bring in new and repeat customers, and generate sales revenue.

So to help stoke the lead generation fires, here are 100 ideas to get you more leads at your upcoming trade shows, divvied up among 5 main areas:

Get more trade show leads by how you select shows

  1. Go to more trade shows outside your local region
  2. Go to more trade shows, in your best vertical markets
  3. Go to more trade shows, in foreign countries
  4. Go to fewer trade shows, but put more effort into booth staff preparation and promotions for each remaining show
  5. Exhibit at trade shows where your buyers are
  6. Track leads to determine and expand in the shows with the best ROI
  7. Evolve show selection to match changes in company’s best vertical markets

Get more trade show leads with your exhibit design

  1. Get a bigger booth
  2. Get a booth space closer to the hub of traffic, or by a bigger competitor
  3. Get a corner booth space
  4. Backlight your trade show display graphics
  5. Design your exhibit to more boldly and clearly say why attendees will benefit from working with you
  6. Put fewer elements on your exhibit, but make the remaining images and messages bigger and more concise
  7. Use graphics with images and benefits that appeal more directly to attendees at your vertical market shows
  8. Put benefit statements on your trade show exhibit graphics
  9. Replace your tired old display with a new trade show exhibit
  10. Make your exhibit architecture more inviting to enter
  11. Pick more exciting colors on your exhibit
  12. Bring fewer products, such as only your most popular products, to minimize clutter
  13. Get a taller exhibit
  14. Add more lighting
  15. Put messages on your flooring
  16. Avoid an exhibit that looks like everyone else
  17. Keep your booth neat and clean throughout the show
  18. Move interesting equipment and technology to the outside of the booth
  19. Use a theme that gets attention and memorably ties into your competitive advantage or offering
  20. Match your exhibit message to your other marketing materials

Get more trade show leads with pre-show promotions

  1. Send an inexpensive postcard offering a free gift in your trade show booth
  2. Run a banner ad on the show website
  3. Send a pre-show email blast to your clients and top prospects located close to the show location
  4. Put stickers with booth location and show info on all outgoing mail
  5. Email invitation to a pre-show microsite with targeted messages and offers
  6. Have your sales people invite their prospects to visit your booth and set up meetings in advance
  7. Send an email invitation to the show’s pre-registered attendee list for this year, and the registered attendee list from last year
  8. Use social media to reach more attendees
  9. Send half of something of value to attendees before the show, and promise to give the other half in your booth
  10. Contact your industry press and tell them about the innovative new product you will be introducing at the show
  11. Put your booth number on all your pre-show promotions: email, mail, ads, website
  12. Design more creative and compelling pre-show promotions to cut through the mailbox clutter
  13. Invite top prospects to lunch or dinner at the show
  14. Send a pre-show promotion offering a more valuable gift in the booth, but not to the entire list, but only to the subset of show attendees that match your target audience
  15. Send free tickets to the trade show to clients and best prospects
  16. Post your trade show schedule on your website with a link to sign up for appointments
  17. Ask the show for additional promotional opportunities

Get more trade show leads with at-show promotions and activities

  1. Introduce a new product at the trade show
  2. Add motion to your exhibit
  3. Offer food, especially if it smells good, like baking cookies
  4. Offer drinks to your booth visitors
  5. Give your attendees something entertaining and fun to do
  6. Do an engaging demo in your booth
  7. Get your client to hold your product
  8. Go beyond sight to appeal to attendees’ sense of smell, sound, taste, and touch
  9. Add interactivity
  10. Run presentations or video loops on large video monitors
  11. Offer healthy food, not just candy
  12. Put out a candy or chocolate dish to slow down attendees long enough to engage them
  13. Offer in-booth massages
  14. Give a free sample of your product
  15. Give a free sample of a product made with your product
  16. Hire a celebrity for your booth, where the celebrity is popular with your target audience at the show
  17. Hire a celebrity lookalike for your booth, where the celebrity is popular with your target audience at the show
  18. Giveaway something useful to your target audience
  19. Hire a performer, such as a magician, to attract attention to your booth
  20. Have a raffle, sweepstakes, money machine or a game
  21. Hold a press conference if you have newsworthy news
  22. Sponsor something highly visible at the show
  23. Have a contest for attendees in your booth
  24. Get signage in the show hall promoting your booth presence
  25. Offer a show special or discount
  26. Get someone from your company to be a speaker at the show
  27. Give presentations or educational sessions in your booth
  28. Do door drops that target only show attendees at their hotel rooms
  29. Pay to include an invite or a gift in the official show bag each attendee gets
  30. Put an ad in the show book
  31. Brand your staffers with outfits or similar attire
  32. Offer one really big prize (worth thousands of dollars) to get more attention

Get more trade show leads with better booth staffing

  1. Bring more booth staffers
  2. Bring booth staffers who actually want to be there
  3. Hold a contest to reward the staffers who take the highest quantity of qualified leads
  4. Leave your wallflowers at home
  5. Train your booth staff how to work a trade show booth
  6. Communicate to your staff the company’s goals and your expectations of them in the booth
  7. Don’t use booth staffing as a training ground for brand-new employees
  8. Ask visitors open-ended questions and listen to their answers
  9. Get faster at recording each lead by not writing down every visitor’s name and address, but instead using a badge scanner
  10. Have enough badge scanners to avoid lines with your booth staffers in busy times
  11. Bring crowd gatherers
  12. Smile
  13. Keep your booth staffers fresh by giving them regular breaks
  14. Learn to more quickly disengage with unqualified attendees
  15. Thoroughly train your booth staffers on the new products you are introducing at the show or just introduced recently
  16. Make friends with your neighboring exhibitors, and refer attendees back and forth
  17. Bring your top management to booth staff, and tell attendees they will be there
  18. Get staffers out of the bowels of your booth and out to the edge of the aisle
  19. Don’t sit down in your booth, unless you are talking with visitors
  20. Don’t hide behind tables
  21. Instead of giving away literature, offer to mail it to attendees, and get their contact info
  22. Prepare your booth staffers with several good engaging questions
  23. Arm your booth staffers with answers to common objections
  24. Train your booth staffers to know your products and how they solve your clients’ problems

Which of these 100 ideas will you choose?  Perhaps you are already doing several yourselves.  Some can be combined to be used simultaneously.  It’s a long list, and there’s no way anyone can do all 100.  Some of them even contradict each other.

Yet as Bob Milam advises, while knowing a lot of tactics is useful, knowing which tactics to use and when to use them is even more useful.  Determine your strategy first, then choose among these trade show tactics the most appropriate ones to support your strategy and generate more leads.

Also, while I’ve listed many tactics to get more leads, of course you need to also strive for getting higher quality leads.  And if you can do both, go to the head of the class.

While 100 is a big list, it’s certainly not everything.  Please share your own tips for generating more leads at trade shows in the comment box below.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

32 responses to “100 Trade Show Lead Generation Ideas

  1. Thanks Mike!

    I think number 88 should be number 1 though. Everything you listed is highly important to lead gen, but without a smile and a warm friendly presence most people will pass right by your booth, or will feel less likely to talk to you. Smiling is a small yet vital key to gaining new clients.

    Again, great post!!

    Steve Eaton

    1. Thanks, Steve. A smile is so powerful, that Emilie Barta wrote an entire blog post about it. Click on the word “smile” in the list and you’ll see her excellent article.

  2. Great list Mike.
    And the good thing is that most are not big cost – just “best practice” and attitude.

    I think 49 is very important, as it’s usually a long day and important to keep the staff motivated and smiling. If they are having fun/smiling, they will attract more to stop.

    – Process your trade show leads effectively.

  3. Dear Mike,
    your exhibit leads are exhibition sources for exhibitors are little in iran,your leads are very practical for exhibitors.
    Good luck!

  4. i am looking for an in-depth tutorial about lead generation, can anyone post links ?.,”

  5. Its amazing how people can make a living stating the obvious. If you do not already incorporate or are aware of the above 100 tips you shouldn’t be in sales or doing trade shows.

  6. Our company used AllJsoftware’s slot machine software… It truly worked great. We were able to customize the prize give aways, and we’re able to put our corporate images on the slot reels that spun… It was very affective. The site is


  7. Chair Massage is a big attraction at a lot of trade shows. It’s a big draw in. People who have been walking and carrying heavy bags of giveaways are ready to sit and have a relaxing massage. Make sure to scan their name tag or have plenty of reps to talk to them while they are waiting for their turn.

  8. How can you become creative with your booth/display, when you have a service business like mine (Home inspections for buyers & sellers, Radon & Mold testing)?
    It is just myself and a partner.
    We need to appeal to the Realtors so we joined their association, but they are not open to use anyone “different”. They have their favorite inspection companies and will not even give us a chance. They have a trade show this November for their affiliates and we want to have a booth and make an impression…any ideas?

    1. Hello Chris,

      When your product isn’t a tangible product, but a service, you can still create a display that captures attention. You do that by creating graphics that help your buyers identify that you know them and can solve their problems. Use pictures of inspections in action. Or of troubled spots that inspections find that could save the Realtors’ reputations when found out ahead of time. Or make a big, bold statement about the benefit you bring to your prospect that they aren’t getting from your competitors. These are just ideas — you know best what will be the hot topics for your buyers. Then find a way to make that into a compelling visual and a brief, bold statement, and put that on your display.

  9. Trade shows are great opportunities for marketers to acquire new leads. Thanks for the great ideas you have provided here Mike!

  10. One of the above posters mentioned that #88 should be #1, and it got me thinking about NASCAR. I saw a really neat “hook” at a trade show that incorporated several of the above points. It was a slot car race track, and the staffers were dressed in the theme and the booth was decorated with checkered flags. They encouraged attendees to race each other, and gave away prizes to the winners, and even had the contest over multiple days to get people to return to their booth. It was the hit of the show.

  11. Thank You for all the great ideas. I am a realtor in Richmond Ky and I’m doing my first trade show soon and needed some ideas on how to do my booth. Thank You Mike.

  12. Pingback: Friday roundup: meet us in Boston, ROI, trade show tips, lead recycling | About LeadsAbout Leads
  13. I love these tips! I’m going to use #72 the next time we’re at a trade show. The invention of Mobile Phone QR Readers makes lead collection a snap!

  14. Hello Mike,
    Great article indeed. Very detailed and full of ideas. If I could have one negative comment though, it would be this one: you talk great length about how to get leads but ignore what is, in my opinion, way more important than leads. And that would be following-up on leads.
    Leads are worth nothing without proper follow-up.
    I encourage anyone ever going to a fair, trade show, exhibition to collect leads (digitally for obvious logistics & efficiency reasons) and manage quick if not instant follow-up. You could have your back office sending catalogs, samples & price-lists as you record leads, you could use a tool to send instant follow-up emails or you could do the follow-up right after the fair. In any case, let’s all give up the pen&paper method that leads to endless hours of data entry and makes us all lose enormous opportunities. We should all plan way ahead on how to follow-up on the leads we work so hard to get!

    Thanks again Mike, you’ve inspired me and I’ll be using some of your suggestions!

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