Trade-Show -Survival-Guide-Image

Your Trade Show Event Survival Guide

January 10, 2017

Don’t believe the facade. Trade show exhibiting is often more down and dirty than glitz and glam.

Between the potential for long days, unexpected mishaps, and logistical nightmares, the day of a trade show event can make even the most veteran exhibitor look like a shuddering novice.

So why do we put ourselves through this grind? Because 83% of brands say that their #1 reason for event participation is increasing sales. And guess what? It works.

To fight back against the inevitable madness of expo day, come prepared.

It can be intimidating to go through it alone. Take this with you on your way:

Your Trade Show Survival Guide


  • Cleaning supplies
  • 1 kit of misc. tools (screwdriver, hammer, tape measure, etc.)
  • 1 roll of double-sided tape or velcro
  • 2 pairs of comfortable shoes
  • 1 portable phone charger
  • 1 bottle of ibuprofen
  • Breakfast and coffee for your staff
  • 3-6 interesting questions for your team to ask booth attendees
  • A room in the expo’s hotel
  • 1 list of trade show marketing goals
  • 1 winning attitude


1. Pack your bags. The day (and sometimes couple of days) of your exhibition requires maintenance for the booth and yourself.

For your booth: Between drayage, unpacking, assembly, and eventually teardown, there are more than a few opportunities for snags in your plan. That’s why cleaning supplies and tools are a must. Having these at the ready will ensure your trade show exhibit stays in pristine condition, from show start to show end.

For yourself: Neglect your own wellbeing and you’ll end up limiting your potential for success. Working a trade show means you may be up and moving on your feet all day. Bring 2 pairs of comfortable shoes (to switch into halfway through the event), aspirin or ibuprofen, and a portable phone charger. With that combination, you won’t have a reason to stop moving.

2. Book a room in the hotel that’s either hosting or sponsored by the expo. Sure, it’s often more expensive. But doing so will put you in closer contact with other event attendees, who are more likely to stay at the hosting hotel. Each one of these attendees is a potential contact, client, or even sale waiting to happen. Why wouldn’t you welcome the extra opportunity to connect with them?

Also, it’s (almost) impossible to get lost on the way to the event if your hotel and the venue are one in the same!

3. Get your staff ready. The people manning your booth are also its lifeblood, so their preparation can’t be ignored. Start off the day by providing them with a filling breakfast and coffee to both get them energized and avoid any unsightly nibbling at your booth while the show is in progress.

Also prior to the start of the show, rehearse 3-6 interesting questions with your staff to ask show attendees. Forget “Hi, how are you?” and “How is your show going so far?” and replace them with something more engaging and personalized. Open-ended questions work better than simple yes/no questions, as they encourage further conversation.

4. Know the common trade show mistakes and avoid them. For example, you should enter each show with a unique plan and set of goals in hand. These targets will shape your entire trade show strategy, from messaging, to staff training, and lead follow-up.

Other common mistakes include handing out dated or inaccurate marketing collateral, giving away lackluster promotional items, and failing to greet every visitor that enters your booth. Put yourself in an attendee’s shoes: What would irritate you at someone else’s exhibit?

5. Make the rounds. As you play exhibitor, you should also play attendee by visiting other booths and talking with other presenters. Walk around to other booths and grab all the literature you can find (of course keeping in mind that your own booth should always be staffed). You’ll be able to get a better understanding of your competition, the state of your industry, and maybe even acquire a new contact or two.

6. Finally – breathe. You’ve likely spent months planning for this day, so don’t get lost in all of the madness. If you planned properly, followed all of the trade show best practices, and entered the show with a winning attitude, you are poised for nothing but success.

After you’ve left the show (hopefully with a stack of business cards in your pocket and scores of leads in your database!), it’s time to measure your success. Use this guide to calculate whether or not your trade show exhibit really saw the ROI it deserved.