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5 Tips for Highly Successful Trade Shows

September 21, 2016

Trade shows are often one of the most major expenses of a sales department’s budget. Not only do you have the hard costs associated with the trade show such as exhibit fees, trade show booth, travel expenses, but you have the preliminary fees such as pre-show prospecting campaigns, appointment invitations, printed collateral etc. With so much money in the game, it’s important to generate a strong ROI from your trade show participation. To help you do just that, we’ve listed 5 tips that help your team have highly successful trade shows.


It’s hard not to get the trade show list and want to go at it quickly, attempting to prospect months in advance. But, you know the drill, often the response goes something like, “Not sure I’m attending yet, contact me a few weeks before the show,” or words to that effect. Rather than spin your wheels trying to reach out early, make a ‘soft’ connection first via LinkedIn. Give the prospect a little time to get to know you via social media, your website, and any articles you may share and vice versa. This will give both of you a bit of time to build a connection, which is so valuable before an actual prospecting call.

Generally, you’ll have far greater success booking appointments a few weeks ahead of a show rather than months out, especially when you’ve already made an introduction via LinkedIn. A few days before a show is the time to start sending messages; “packing for ‘xxx’, checking out the nightlife – anyone want to meet for a drink?” Asking a question always helps engagement, “Where’s a good place to get a dry martini?” You get the message, and so will your prospects!


The giveaway can be a big struggle for companies, what do you give that won’t kill the budget, stay on brand, and seem significant? Let’s face it not everyone can give away a three-night hotel stay or an iPad. Like it or not, a giveaway has become an expected perk of trade shows. But keeping the freebie seekers at bay is always a struggle. Providing a comfortable place to ‘recharge’ – both body and electronics – offering mini-massages or food and beverage can speak volumes to attendees and is a great way to create engagement.

A clever way to get attention prior to the show, and secure a meeting is to take a gift card, physically cut it in half, send it to prospects with a note that you’d love to meet with them at the show and will give them the other half at that time. Or use the card to set up a pre-show meeting over a ‘virtual’ coffee. It’s different and it gets replies.

Sending effective messages

To make a connection you have to make some part of your messaging personal. Take the time to find out about your prospect or find a commonality and mention it in your messaging. LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ can be helpful in trying to find out more about your prospects prior to a tradeshow. But, just like any prospecting system they have to be worked. Merely posting a message saying, “Look for me at booth #624,” isn’t going to pull prospects to your booth. How many times do you see messages like these just before trade show mania? How many times do you ignore them? If someone sent a message saying that they read your comments on a post or read a post you shared and found them helpful. You’d probably be more likely to agree to a meet them, (just another reason why social media is so important and often underused). It comes back to making the connection, prior to the show.

Next, apply the KISS principle – Keep it simple sista’, also known as the one-swipe rule! Your messages should be articulate, short and to the point and sent through a combination of email and social media. But ultimately, two weeks before a trade show, when e-blasts are typically being sent, there should be plenty of follow through via all channels with personal notes to prospects.

Confirmed Meetings

We all know that you’ll have far greater success when you have confirmed appointments during the show, rather than several non-committed, “Sure I’ll swing by” scenarios. But even confirmed appointments get broken. Taking extra steps though to make it easy for prospects to keep the meeting will reveal that ‘go the extra mile mentality’ that everyone appreciates. When you send a confirmed calendar invitation, make sure you put the location of your booth (with directions) and include your cell phone. If you have your prospects cell phone, send a text prior to the appointment. There’s nothing worse than standing around waiting for a no-show.

Follow Up

Equally important, make sure you set up the next steps before the meeting ends and initiate your follow up campaign. As salespeople we know the follow up is hugely important but let’s be real, how often do we let it slide – accidentally. We have the intention but somehow the time just gets away from us. Follow up is a must. It is far easier to follow up when you have a plan in place prior to the show, rather than after. A quick and easy way to start your follow up is to simply send a short thank you with the next action step outlined via text message. Thanks to text dictation, there’s really no excuse not to follow up during the trade show. While prospects are most likely going to be added to an ongoing email campaign, it’s important to send a follow up that speaks specifically to a prospect. As Mark Wallace of the marketing firm Justellus says, “[Don’t] start follow up emails with ‘I wanted to follow up,’ ‘I wanted to check in,’ ‘I want, I want, I want, make the follow up about them and not you. If you avoid using those words, your follow up response rates will quickly increase.”

Trade shows offer a terrific opportunity to meet multiple prospects in one location, increase brand awareness and secure more business. Implementing these five tips can go a long way in helping your team have highly successful trade shows.

You don’t have to wait to connect with Visit Newport Beach at a trade show. But you will want to connect with us when you’re looking for the ideal destination for your next group meeting. As a destination specialist and partner, Visit Newport Beach offers meeting planner incentives and sponsorships that can extend the meeting budget!

Written by Visit Newport Beach Meetings

As a not-for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), Visit Newport Beach provides destination expertise, customized site visits, strong partnerships and resources tailored specifically to the needs of meeting planners and their clients.

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