Trade Show Marketing Best Practices

September 10, 2019 | Trade Shows

In this article, we’ll share some of‘s trade show marketing best practices. We’ll talk about swag, pre-show marketing, press matters and more.

Skip the Gimmicks

At trade shows, you’ll see it all. Juggling, raffles, ‘booth babes’ in bikinis with no product knowledge. Our advice to you? Skip all of these shenanigans. 

The entire point of these spectacles is typically to attract attendees and collect business cards indiscriminately.

However—as we teach in Tradeshow Basecamp™—your goal at a trade show is to find out if someone is a good lead as quickly as possible, and pass along great notes about those leads for follow up.

What can you learn from a bucket full of business cards offered up for the chance to win another company’s product in a raffle? Very little.  

….Keep reading to learn more trade show marketing best practices from our Tradeshow Basecamp™ pros!

Tina Nicola, M.A.

Tina is the founder of and has been creating profitable marketing and exhibit strategies for startups, small businesses and nonprofits for over nineteen years. Her main goal is to broaden access to the techniques she has developed so anyone can benefit and improve exhibiting strategy, sales conversations and follow up.

Tradeshow Basecamp™

Our acclaimed course series, a complete program designed to help you have profitable trade shows. Get instant access to the full course series (101, 102, 103, 104).

Be fully prepared for your next event and earn your  Certified Tradeshow Basecamp Exhibitor™ (CTBE™) today!

Training a team? Check out our For Teams course series.

Introducing...Tradeshow Basecamp™

Host Exhibit Demos and Presentations

You should definitely host events in your exhibit, including fun product demos and educational presentations. However, these events should be directly related to your business and attractive to good leads. 

Simply collecting business cards or scanning business cards (or badges) does not help you sell after the show. Instead, be sure all contact information you collect is attached (either physically or electronically) to the notes you took about your conversation with the lead during the Lead Interview. That sets you or a co-worker up for success when following up with leads after the trade show. 

Trade Show LED Lighting - Clip On for Stand Up Banners

Want to learn more about trade show booth design for small businesses? Check out these articles…

Trade Show Booth Tips and Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

Offer the Right Kind of Swag (Giveaways)

What about ‘swag’? Swag is a term used to refer collectively to the marketing materials and free giveaways passed out by companies to attendees at a trade show. We’ve seen attendees literally pulling a suitcase to carry all of their ‘swag.’ As you can imagine, free stuff is popular among attendees.

Swag itself isn’t bad. The right kind of giveaway can be considered a trade show marketing best practice. So, what’s a good giveaway? 

Effective swag will make it home with the attendee, rather than ending up in the hotel trash. Great swag will still be in use by an attendee a year or more after the show, reminding them of your company and products. Great swag should…

  • Prominently display your brand and website url
  • Be useful for attendees in your industry (a USB drive, a refrigerator magnet, a sturdy shopping bag are all great examples) 

Some of the most effective swag we’ve organized for clients include…

  • Stuff to carry or organize their swag: For example, sturdy pocket folder brochures and canvas bags. Attendees will carry around both of these giveaways from one show to the next. If it’s sturdy, your brand will be used to organize the ‘swag’ from other companies as well. 
  • USB drives: Load them up with a product demo or video presentation about your company or product. USB drives are a highly useful product that will be used regularly by attendees at their home or office. 
  • Product samples: When appropriate, product samples are ideal swag. 

Save Great Swag for Great Leads

Be sure to save the best ‘swag’ for the best leads. Make different quality of swag available in the booth. Do not put the swag at the edge of your exhibit space. Instead, situate these giveaways inside the booth where booth staff can control them and distribute them to the best leads. You want to encourage sales conversations, not encourage people to grab freebies and run.

Cheaper swag might be a pen, a cheaper brochure or even a business card. As we teach in Tradeshow Basecamp™, handing out cheap swag can be an effective part of your strategy for disengaging from attendees who aren’t good leads. 

Pre-Show Trade Show Marketing Best Practices

The best pre-show marketing is often the least expensive. Plan events at the show that feature your products and/or staff and management team. That means planning. 

Call for Presentations

Almost every trade show calls for presentations at some point. They are looking for educational presentations by experts to help attract attendees to come to their trade show. Do your best to pitch presentations for every trade show you attend.

If you are a ‘presenter,’ you will automatically be featured in official promotional materials. Also, you can promote the presentation in your pre-show marketing as well. It doesn’t matter that the presentation is educational—sometimes, it’s even better!

Your company will get great exposure and you can certainly remind attendees where your booth is for follow-up at the end of your presentation. Your company’s presenter can also remind attendees of any presentations you are hosting in your booth. This brings us to the second of our trade show marketing best practices for pre-show marketing…

Market Your In-Booth Presentations

Market your in-booth presentations as often as you can in your pre-show marketing. Promote them on your website, on social media, in email blasts to attendees and in the booth itself—in the form of a handout or prominent schedule on display.

Meet the Deadline for Listing in Show Promotion

It sounds crazy, but many companies don’t make the deadline for listing in the official show promotion. There will be a deadline for submitting your booth location, company description and contact information to the show organizers. This information about your company will be printed in the packet that will be distributed to attendees at the trade show. Do not miss this deadline. It’s important free publicity.

Do Email Marketing

Email marketing is often an affordable way to promote your company to show attendees. Include a simple ‘Going to Show XYZ?’ in the email header to drastically boost your email open rate. This headline implies official, important show communication without breaking trade show email marketing rules.

Be sure to promote your schedule for in-booth presentations and encourage attendees to pre-book appointments with sales or veeps to discuss their needs. To do this, offer a link to a customized appointment or contact form in the email.

Want more information on driving traffic and pre-show marketing?

Check out our article on Trade Show Tips and Tricks.

Remember the Press (and Press Releases)

Pre-show marketing should include personalized emails to any prominent members of the press that will be at the trade show. Be sure to promote your demo/presentation schedule and invite them to stop by. Plan a press release to launch a few weeks before the show, and at least one during the show. Share press releases with the press directly by email. And, make copies of the press releases available in your booth. You want to give the press plenty to talk about.

You’ll also want to put together a press ‘packet’ and instruct staff to distribute them when press arrive at the booth. If the show has a press ‘hub’ where companies leave materials for the press, be sure your company is included. 

Train Staff in Trade Show Marketing Best Practices

The biggest mistake companies make when trying to implement trade show best practices is forgetting that booth staff are a critical part of your marketing efforts. When they aren’t trained, your trade show marketing will suffer. Your booth staff need to be trained to…

  • Actively start conversations with attendees passing by using great Icebreakers—conversations that can lead to sales!
  • Qualify leads using the Lead Interview
  • Use information from the Lead interview to market the right products or in-booth presentations during Next Steps
  • Handle members of the press skillfully, referring them to the right colleagues and sharing press releases and other information. You want to help press help you by giving them exciting news to promote that makes them look good.

Sound daunting? Have staff working the booth who aren’t sales pros? You need Tradeshow Basecamp™.

Why Tradeshow Basecamp™?

Tradeshow Basecamp™ is a complete guide on how to have profitable conversations at trade shows. This course will teach you how to set trade show goals that staff can use to effectively guide their trade show sales conversations. You’ll learn how to identify the Four Character Lead Types you’ll meet at every trade show and how to have successful conversations with each of them.

What are the Five Easy Steps?

Tradeshow Basecamp™ will teach you or your staff to have sales conversations in Five Easy Steps:

  • Icebreaker
  • Quick Intro
  • Lead Interview
  • Next Steps
  • Disenagagement

To learn more about the Five Easy Steps approach, read our article on trade show direct sales strategy.

Each step should take you closer to your sales goals. You’ll use Icebreakers to start conversations with exhibit attendees—conversations that might lead to sales! You’ll prepare Quick Intros in advance of the show—short statements about your company or product that keep the sales conversation going.

From there, you’ll qualify leads with the Lead Interview—asking specific questions to find out if the person you are speaking with is a ‘good lead’ likely to buy from you!

If at any point you discover the person you are speaking with is not a good lead, you jump right to the last step and Disengage (end the conversation)! If your conversation has uncovered that the person is (or might still be) a good lead, you try to meet a sales goal by proposing appropriate Next Steps.

Tradeshow Basecamp™ Staff Training Solutions

Have you learned anything in this article that you didn’t already know? If so, you’ll love Tradeshow Basecamp™!

Tradeshow Basecamp™ is a complete guide on how to work a trade show booth to maximize profitable sales conversations. You can affordably train yourself or even your whole team without spending $1,000s on trade show or event planning consultants. As you’ll see below, there’s a Tradeshow Basecamp™ solution for everyone!

The Training Handbook

Your least expensive option for training is the Tradeshow Basecamp™ Handbook, an eBook available exclusively via In it, you will learn the basics of how to have repeatably successful sales conversations, create reasonable sales goals, and keep good notes for following up with leads after the show.

Trade Show Training Course for Teams

If you’re managing a team, you might want to consider the Tradeshow Basecamp™ course series for Teams, which features team management and per-seat pricing. Training accountability with challenging quizzes and video watch time verification tracking will give you confidence they’ve paid attention and mastered the concepts.

Trade Show Training Course for Individual Professionals

Just want to train yourself in the Tradeshow Basecamp™ methodology? Check out our full Tradeshow Basecamp™ course series for Individuals, which includes hours of online videos, role playing, and downloadable resources. It is a complete program to ensure you are prepared for your next trade show, trade fair, or exhibit.

Train Staff on How to Work a Trade Show Booth In-House

Without trade show staff training, a trade show is a waste of money. There is no better way to boost your ROI than by making sure your staff is trained to sell! If you have the time and resources to conduct training in-house, check out our guide to direct sales team training ideas.

We hope this has been a helpful review of some of the trade show tips for small businesses available at It’s our sincere hope that you and your team will find and our Tradeshow Basecamp™ course series to be a valuable partner in your trade show success for years to come.

Tradeshow Basecamp™

Our acclaimed course series, a complete program designed to help you have profitable trade shows. Get instant access to the full course series (101, 102, 103, 104).

Be fully prepared for your next event and earn your  Certified Tradeshow Basecamp Exhibitor™ (CTBE™) today!

Training a team? Check out our For Teams course series.

Introducing...Tradeshow Basecamp™

5.00 out of 5 stars

1 ratings

Let us know what you think...

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
Leave a Reply