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Trade Show Basics


As companies are consolidating roles left and right, the responsibilities of the Trade Show Manager are often passed to Marketing Coordinators, Generalists and Sales Managers. If you are someone who has had a company’s trade show program added to your already full plate, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Here are five things to keep in mind as you’re running your trade show program.


When your boss says “Get me a trade show booth for that show and don’t spend more than X”, what does she mean? It is no secret that trade shows are expensive endeavors. Designing and building the booth is often only a small portion of the total cost of doing a show. Securing a spot at the show is at the top of the list for expenses. Shipping costs and drayage (getting your exhibit from your carrier to your booth and back) are costs that are very dependent on the weight of your booth. Install and Dismantle costs should be considered if your booth is not a Do-It-Yourself solution. Remember that in some markets your hanging sign is required to be assembled by the local union. Other trade show expenses include electrical, internet access, lead capture and carpet rental not to mention hotel accommodations, flights and meals. By considering all these costs when planning a show, you (and your boss) won’t be surprised when the bill comes.


There is nothing worse than trying to rush through a project – especially one with a lot of moving parts. Often there are deadlines for your show months before the show floor opens. Being timely can ensure that you get the best spot on the show floor, you’re taking advantage of all available early bird prices and you can snag the best rates for your hotel.


The days of going to a show and expecting to sop up leads from the crowd are gone. You and your sales team should be spending the weeks leading up to the show reaching out to prospects and clients to schedule that face time for the show. Plan to get to the show with several meetings already on the books. This is the time to utilize your social media skills and tell everyone who will listen about the details of your show. Don’t forget to include the show’s hashtags so you appear on searches people do when preparing for the show.


If you will be on the show floor this is critical. The show floor is not the place to check your emails (if you must, its best to step away from the booth). As much as you’re able, try to be on your feet interacting with guests in your booth. Resist the urge to let guests pass through your booth to collect their swag without connecting with them. Of course, there will be opportunities missed but limiting them as best as possible is the single easiest way to get a higher return on your trade show.


The only thing worse than a poor performance at a show is not knowing how you did at all. It’s impossible to adjust to improve your show if you can’t identify the problems. “Was the show worth it?” questions become much easier to answer if you’ve captured leads and can answer confidently how much money you made from the connections the show facilitated.

Qualitative data is also important. Be prepared to observe traffic flow in your booth – which direction are people coming from? What parts of the booth do they pause at? For larger booths, do you notice any dead zones where a visitor cannot see any relevant information? These observations will help to inform how you adjust your booth for your future shows.

About the Author

Chris Rowe is an Exhibiting Consultant with Skyline Displays Midwest, a full service global exhibit, event and environments studio located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A graduate of St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, Chris is passionate about helping people, and he makes his client's goals, problems and aspirations his own. His career in theatre has taught him that often the best solution to a complicated problem is the simplest one. He has made a career in communicating thoughts, concepts and ideas to his clients and there is no better education for that than being on stage. Chris believes that trade shows are performances at their core - put on a good show and the word will spread!

4 responses to “Trade Show Basics

  1. I would think that some companies having their annual trade shows which are a necessity. While some industry trade shows may not be a necessity especially for an already established company. However, for a start-up it may be an important way to break in.

    1. Joy, you’re totally right- for a start up a trade show can be a great way to make an impact and get noticed but when a company is new to the scene its even more important to make sure you’re doing the legwork to make the show a success.

  2. As someone who is new to the behind the scenes aspect of Trade Shows I would like to thank you for your article. I had absolutely NO experience shipping out booths when I took over the responsibilites I now have. My boss sent me a link to your website and said “Great stuff on this site” and now I check back frequently to see if there are any new webinars. I am learning a lot from Skyline Exhibits and I appreciate the time you take to help your client base.

    1. Carmen, Thanks so much for your comment! If you have thoughts on articles or posts that you’d like to see to help you become an expert just let us know.

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