Attending a trade show as a vendor is a great way to put your solutions on display and reach new prospects. But what if you don’t have the time or budget to present a booth at your next trade show? Learn how attendees can maximize trade show ROI without a booth; it all starts with preparation.

How Attendees Can Maximize Trade Show ROI: Preparing for the Show

Set Goals

Why are you attending this show? Chances are you’re not going just because you happened to be in town. Give this some thought. Is the show for an industry you work in directly? It may be that you simply want to learn more about an industry that your company serves, or you may be trying to collect leads and get people interested in your product. Keep in mind, however, that the companies who do have booths are there to sell their product; if your sole purpose is collecting leads for yourself, they may not be interested in what you have to say.

So what are your goals? Stop and think about what you really want to take away from the event. Are you looking to connect with specific vendors or people at the show? After reviewing the speaker schedule, make note of the most important sessions you want to attend and who might be nice to have some face time with. Perhaps are you simply looking to learn all that you can on a specific topic? Knowing what you want to get out of the show before you ever walk in will help keep you focused. Besides, you can’t meet your goals if you don’t set any.

Know the Crowd

Most trade shows post a list of vendors that will be there before the event begins. Take a look at the companies that will be attending. Who are they and what do they do? Do any of them seem to be an ideal fit for your business? Figure out which businesses are a priority so you can make time to stop by their booths and make some conversation. Even better: if you know you want to speak with a particular company, reach out to them and see if you can schedule time to meet with them. Remember, this isn’t the time to be pushy, but it might help you make a great connection.

Develop Your Pitch

Picture this: You’ve researched all of the companies there, and on the day of the trade show you make a beeline for your top priority booth. You get in front of them and… uh… what now?

You’ve walked into this company’s booth. You are taking up their time—and they are there to sell to the people who come to see them. If you’re not interested in their product, what can you say that will make them want to listen to you? Developing a 30-second elevator pitch before you go will help you to grab attention right away. And while you want these companies to be interested in you, don’t forget to show an interest in them too. Ask them questions and talk to them about their products. A conversation should go two ways!

Create a Content Strategy

How is your presence at the trade show going to affect the content you put out? It may be helpful to blog about the trade show before you go so your prospects know you’ll be there. Will you send emails to the leads you connect with at the show? Why not write the emails before you go and automate the process?

You’ll also want to create some content based on your experiences after the show is finished. Come up with some content ideas before you attend so you can prepare and gather the materials and information you’ll need. If you decide after the show that you want to create a video based on your experiences, but you didn’t get any video footage while you’re there, you may be out of luck. Creating a content strategy before you attend will prevent problems like this from cropping up later.
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Get Social

Let people know about your attendance by leveraging social media before, during, and after the event. Is there a hashtag for the trade show? Start using it on Twitter a few weeks beforehand—announce your presence, see who else is using the tag, and strike up conversation!

This is another area where it pays to be prepared. You should be using social media while you’re at the show, but if you don’t come up with a strategy beforehand, you may be feeling your way through the process blindly. What social platforms will you be using while you’re there? Should you be posting messages from your personal or business account? Do you have appropriate permissions and access to these platforms through your mobile device? Will you be focusing on Twitter, Facebook live, Instagram, something else, or a combination of platforms? If there are multiple people attending, who is responsible? Social media seems simple, but if you attend the show without a strategy, it’s guaranteed to fall flat.

Download your free trade show preparation checklist:

Trade Show Prospecting Checklist Google Sheet

Trade Show Prospecting Checklist XLS

Never Stop Learning

There’s a lot that goes into attending a trade show, but it always pays to be prepared. Even if you’re not a vendor, trade shows offer excellent opportunities to build relationships, learn about your industry (or someone else’s!), and—yes—to gain leads. At New Perspective, we value continuous improvement and learning, and we always strive to be an expert in our clients’ needs. Can we help you create a competitive advantage for you company?