Tradeshows a Dying Breed? 13 Tips to Help Improve Show ROI

tradeshow, pr, events, sales, leads, press, editorsRemember the days when tradeshows were jam-packed and everyone registered to attend as soon as they could to reserve their spot?  People milled around and networked for hours looking at some of the greatest booth presentations and demos the industry had to offer.  It was THE BEST, wasn’t it?

Tradeshows were so important. They were an ‘absolute must’ travel expense.  And then, all of a sudden, there was a drop. Slowly, these fun networking extravaganzas seemed to slowly fade away.  But just like print magazines themselves, we’ve seen it come full circle and hopefully there will be a resurgence as organizers are learning what works in today’s new environment.

What works?

  • Quality presenters and trained representatives at the booth are key. Trend-focused speaking opportunities, insights and innovations, NEW and exciting developments… not everything spectacular is necessarily happening on the show floor.  Your reps should bring that all to life for your visitors.
  • USB drives for your applicable content is highly appreciated over the archaic means of distributing info –  THINK big bulky hard copy press kits = Do not do this.  Even better, follow-up with an email after your meeting using an integrated marketing automation platform.
  • Set goals!  Provide a tradeshow checklist complete with deadlines so your team is on the same page. Either for booth-related goals like updating graphics or what materials to bring, or promotional and marketing tasks like press announcements or show promotions.
  • Who is your target audience?  Target them.  Comb through the attendee list. Make a plan to contact them before, during and after the show through marketing automation, social media or opportunities through the show itself.
  • Do you want editorial appointments to meet directly with your team?  Think outside the box since press doesn’t register for shows until the last minute these days.  Extend a call/email to those cited on last year’s list or to press contacts that you feel would be a good fit for the show.
  • Promote, promote, promote!  Any contests, etc. going on at your booth? Fill your social media channels, newsletters and even your paid advertising placements with notifications of your activities and incentives.
  • Involve your public relations team.  You can’t do it all and do not want to be frazzled in advance of a show that may be very important to your company. Sales and PR should work together for the best return on investment (ROI).


What doesn’t?

  • The hard copy press kits!  (Can you tell this is one of our pet peeves…) No editor wants to lug all of that along.  It’s not just your company that they get content from, mind you.  Also, we can only get so many pens and koozies!  Is it just us or are the knickknacks just passé?  Mousepads, no thank you.  Although we do like a nice t-shirt… it’s like a concert tee; you can only get it from there!  Seriously though, giveaways should be useful and unique if you’re going to invest in them.
  • More importantly, as mentioned above, the untrained reps aren’t helpful, especially when you stop by a booth and no one (and I mean, NO.ONE.) comes up to you.
  • Old information that’s not pertinent to the show.  It’s actually a hindrance and makes you look careless. Tradeshows are about innovation. Bring your A-game, not your average.
  • Poor displays, even the carpet in the booth can go a long way.  Plus, added padding attracts the seasoned show pro’s who can spot the cushy paradise a mile away… getting you some time with more attendees. Even those just looking for an extra minute of comfort for tired feet will bend an ear to personable reps.
  • No social media presence.  In this day and age, you have to announce your presence at your tradeshow (with hashtags, which most shows provide) on all social media platforms that your company may use. Live tweeting key facts from speakers can help inform your audience and have them target you for news.
  • AND… if you do not follow up with any potential leads, then why’d you go?  Be persistent!


The bottom line is that tradeshows can still be fantastic networking opportunities with potential customers as well as trade media. Personal relationships still go a long way in this business, so making the best of an event can still bring in leads and editorial opportunities when done right.

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