trade show vendor tips

14 Tips for Trade Show Vendor Success

Ryan Burch is the Director of Platform and Display Sales at Cybba’s office in Phoenix, Arizona. Ryan’s expertise lies in the design, implementation, and maintenance of media and marketing strategies. He specializes in digital strategy, online advertising, and brand management. For any inquiries, contact him at

The 2018 conference season is in full swing and many of our vendor partners are lining up the next 12-18 months of shows to attend. If you’re like us, you'll be among the trade show vendors who attend the same shows each year where you’ve seen success in the past. Attending those same shows will usually net consistent results, but it will also keep your business from diving into new verticals and finding additional opportunities.

So, what’s the best way to find shows to “test”? We spoke with Matthew Sessions, a show organizer for the Digital Summit series to get some advice on how to select a show, and then how to prepare for them.

I’m a vendor – How do I identify which shows to attend?

There are a series of great questions to ask yourself before deciding on which shows to attend:

  • Does the show agenda match my services and solutions?
  • Is the sponsorship an Expo Hall experience or more casual conference style format?
  • Is the Agenda scheduled for vendor sponsors & the attendees to interact?  Having a jam packed agenda for the attendees leaves little time for interaction.
  • Who are the other sponsors?  Do you want to be in a vendor lineup with a bunch of competitors or showcase your unique solutions & services?
  • Watch out! Is there a free ‘Expo Pass’ ticket?  This is a red-flag for sure as it’s a great trick for show organizers to dramatically inflate attendance numbers.  What percentage of the audience will be attending on the Free ticket?

Ok, so we understand how to select shows. But, we don’t always see ROI and that makes it tough for us to justify as a business. Why might that be?

In my opinion, there are two main reasons for a lack of ROI in live event marketing:

  • Picking the wrong event.  Your solutions / services don’t match the event Agenda and therefore the attendees.  The three pillars of events are Vendors – Agenda – Attendees.  Don’t be the odd one out!
  • What’s your price point for a new customer?   If a new customer is a $5K deal, you would hope to be able to close a few strong leads from the event.  If your next customer is a $500K deal, it may take multiple events for the ROI to prove itself.  Not every baseball player hits a home run every at-bat.  Sometimes a home run every few games is great.  Make sure the audience is a fit for your business model.

Finally, be sure to connect with the Show Management post-event and share what worked and what didn’t.  The shows want to continue the business partnership and should be able to adapt for future sponsorships.

As a vendor, what’s the #1 most important thing I can do before attending a trade show?

Pick the right internal staff to represent your brand!  Personally, I’d pick the hungry territory sales rep(s) as the onsite leaders.  They are the ones who should be best at conversationally selling and represent the face of the company.  While it’s great to get out-of-the-office, stay hydrated (with water!), go easy on the free alcohol, and be sure to ‘schedule’ proper sleep time.  Events are a marathon, not a sprint.  You want the onsite team to shine every moment!

As a vendor, how do I make sure my booth is unique?

  • Does the signage and branding of your display explain what you do in about 2-3 seconds?  No one wants to ask what your company does but they should be able to immediately engage with your solutions or choose to move on based on your signage.  Keep the signage simple, clean, and concise.
  • Make sure your staff (see above) has a positive attitude and is actively engaging with attendees.  Don’t intimidate the attendees with a booth full of matching polo shirts.
  • Keep it casual and network everywhere – not just at your booth.  In the elevator, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc. are great times to chat up with ‘one more person’.  Remember, you are ‘3 Feet from your next big deal’ at all times of the event.

Any last recommendations?

  • Introduce yourself and solutions to other vendors.  If they are not direct competitors, they may send traffic your way by knowing about your solutions.
  • Be presentable - casual dress should be left at the office.  While you don’t need the prom dress or tie, look sharp!
  • Put away the personal laptop as emails can wait, hide the Starbucks coffee cup, eat lunch away from your booth, scan your social media feeds after hours, and take your calls elsewhere.  A first impression is just what it sounds!
  • Finally, respect the attendee’s time.  Don’t force conversations or be overly outgoing.  Know when to wrap it up and leave attendees eager to re-engage with you after the event for a more formal buying discussion.  90% of all live event leads are not followed up…don’t be those people.  Take notes when the attendee walks away and follow up on all leads exactly as discussed.



To learn more about marketing at trade shows, digital marketing and advertising, and the Digital Summit Series, check out our resources page or contact our experts for a free consultation.

Ryan Burch
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