Trade show Secrets: What every exhibitor needs to know - Calgary Event Planner

Trade show Secrets: What every exhibitor needs to know

Spring is finally here and with it comes Trade show season! I talk a lot about corporate events on my blog but the truth is I’ve also produced over a dozen large scale trade shows in Calgary so I have a soft spot for all the springtime shows that seem to take over the city every weekend.

The work that goes into both producing and exhibiting at a trade show can be immense but they can also be incredibly effective initiatives for many businesses.

One of the biggest advantages to trade shows is their exceptional targeting power. They’re almost always industry specific which means your ideal customers are not only in the room but they’ve come specifically to seek out businesses like yours. The opportunities are boundless but, like everything, there are still some important strategies to keep in mind to ensure you excel.


First and foremost we need to talk about booth set up. Most trade shows utilize setups featuring 10×10 booth sizes. In most cases this includes pipe & drape walls, a skirted table, a couple of chairs and carpet. The rest is up to you.

100 square feet is not a lot to work with which means you need to use every inch of space to your advantage and yet, more often than not, I see exhibitors push their table to the front of their booth. Taking this approach effectively creates a barrier between you and the attendees and limits your interactions. This is what you should avoid at all costs.

Booth set up poor use of space

Note: these photos are staged and my dear friend who allowed me to use his booth for the purpose of this blog does an exceptional job of exhibiting – but someone had to be my fall guy.

Instead push your table to the back or side wall to welcome visitors into your space. Out of the isle they will be far more comfortable and engaged with what you have to offer them.

This booth was at a recent trade show for one of my clients and is an excellent example of how to create a booth that is open and interesting.

Good Booth example


This is another area I have seen overlooked and it has a huge impact on the experience attendees will have with your company and brand. When staffing a booth you need to consider energy levels and personalities. Those chosen to represent you need to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and welcoming.

This may seem obvious but how many times have you walked by a booth where the representative was sitting behind a table looking bored or scrolling through their phone absentmindedly. Nobody wants to talk to anyone who would clearly rather be anywhere else but at your booth.

Colin Looking Bored

On the other end of the spectrum it’s also important to avoid the appearance of being overly aggressive and salesy as well.  Simply standing in the aisle handing out as many brochures as possible without so much as a hello is about as effective as taking those brochures and lighting them on fire. Nobody’s reading anything from the “annoying guy”.


Unfortunately, it’s not always as straightforward as simply showing up. Trade shows are bursting with of all kinds of activity and other exhibitors vying for time with attendees which means you need to have a clear set of goals and a plan in place to attract the right visitors to generate leads or direct sales.

Brand your give-aways – candies or generic nik naks might seem easy but they’re also forgettable. Brand your hand outs and choose less obvious items connected to your business. They’ll already have at least 10 pens in their bag before they reach you. I promise.

Choose the right prizes – Trade show visitors LOVE entering draws. Whenever possible choose a prize that is either a product or service you offer or something closely connected to your business. Targeted prizing attracts those more likely to become customers while generic prizes attract everybody.

Have a follow up strategy – Ask questions, collect email addresses (in a CASL compliant way) or even set up follow up appointments on-site. Find ways to reconnect with your visitors after the show to keep the momentum going and convert any leads you collect.

Integrate your marketing efforts – Trade shows may only last for a day or two but pre and post promotions can help extend the life of your investment. Social media activity alone can give businesses a significant boost if leveraged well as can show related publicity and follow up communications. Thinking beyond the floor can offer a wealth of opportunities.

Finally consider how you plan to measure your success once the event has wrapped. Direct sales are straightforward but figures around leads, coupons, follow up effectiveness and even social media analytics can help determine what strategies were most effective and offer insights as to how to tweak your efforts for events to come.

As trade show producers we do our best to attract the type of clientele you want to meet but once they walk through the doors, the rest is up to you.

For more information on Calgary Corporate Event Planners, or to get an estimate on planning your next event, contact Jennifer James at 403-294-1644 or email

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