Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

August 29, 2019 | Trade Show Tips Trade Shows

In this article, we’ll share some of‘s must-read trade show tips for small businesses. From training staff to booth signage tips, you’ll learn the secrets to having a profitable trade show.

Prefer a video? Check out the Podcast on Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

Train Your Staff to Sell!

You’ve just committed $1,000s to $100,000s to exhibit at a trade show. The biggest mistake we see small businesses make at a trade show is failing to adequately train staff, even if it means spending a few dollars more.

Sales Strategy and Trade Show Etiquette

Without training, your staff will be little more than warm bodies and your trade show will be a waste of time and money.

We know that hiring consultants to train staff is expensive and tip lists aren’t the complete guide your staff needs. Your staff needs to go into the trade show with a clear sales strategy and an understanding of Trade Show Etiquette. How can you get them up to speed quickly?

Train staff with Tradeshow Basecamp™

To solve these problems, we’ve created Tradeshow Basecamp™—the first online video course series of its kind. This course is designed to teach you how to have profitable sales conversations at your trade show booth in just Five Easy Steps!

More than trade show tips and tricks, this course is a complete guide to selling at your trade show exhibit. Click on “Learn More” to watch preview lessons from Tradeshow Basecamp™ or…

….Keep reading to learn secrets 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™

Budget Signage: Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

Small 10×10 Trade Show Spaces (Inline)

Like any small business, budget is likely a factor in your trade show planning. For small 10×10 spaces, many businesses love retractable banner stands or pop-up displays. These products are more affordable, and cheaper and easier to transport than other kinds of branded booth properties.

However, even a large retractable banner stand can cost $300 or more per sign. That means you should always design signage with re-usability in mind.

  • Design signage around generic marketing messages and stable products—not one-off promotions or sales.

Messages specific to one show, or temporary pricing and promotion information can be printed in a cheaper way. Use temporary adhesive to attach affordable poster board signs to more permanent signs or hardware. Or, use table-top signs for displaying this information.

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

Trade Show Booth Tips and Trade Show Tips and Tricks

Larger Trade Show Spaces (Island, Corner)

Is your trade show exhibit space larger than a 10×10? You’ve got some space to fill! It’s tempting to buy permanent new or used booth properties to reflect your brand. However, this is not necessarily the best investment for small businesses.

Booth properties need to be shipped, sometimes at great expense to you. Once at the show, union regulations often require that you pay official labor to assemble your branded booth—another large expense.

Rent Booth Properties

A cheaper solution? Work with the vendors endorsed by the trade show itself to rent booth properties. The vendors will print the signs and install them in the rented booth properties at the event. You won’t pay for shipping. Best of all, official show vendors tend to offer similar options in terms of booth property sizes. That means that the signage is frequently re-usable from one show to the next.

A combination of retractable banner stands, pop-up displays (that your staff carries in) and rented booth properties can be an affordable way to fill your space. Another great way to fill the space? Create a presentation are in your trade show booth! Keep reading to learn more about why you should consider hosting presentations in your exhibit!

Trade Show Booth Lighting Matters

Don’t skimp on lighting. We know adding lighting to your trade show space adds electricity and lighting costs. However, trade show booths without lighting look less professional and your messages will get lost in a large exhibit hall. Since the exhibit hall itself will likely be well-lit, your signs need lighting to stand out.

Check out our article on Trade Show Booth Lighting for a budget-conscious LED light buying guide.

Driving Traffic: Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

Host Presentations—In Your Exhibit

Instead of renting expensive conference room space from the trade show itself, design your exhibit to include presentation space. An interesting presentation with an audience is a sure-fire way to draw attendees into your exhibit.

‘Live’ Product demonstrations or presentations in the exhibit have the following advantages:

  • Fill large space, usefully and cost-effectively. Renting a few chairs is cheaper than booth signage and is a great way to ‘fill the space’ in a professional looking way.
  • Save money on conference room rentals. Renting conference room space for sales meetings and presentations can be very costly. This strategy is cheaper and also serves to…
  • Drive traffic. Not only will presentations in the exhibit attract attendees passing by, but you can promote the presentation schedule in your pre-show marketing. This gives attendees a reason to schedule a trip to visit you!

Trade Show LED Lighting - Clip On for Stand Up Banners

Use Great Icebreakers

Regardless of pre-show marketing, it’s still the responsibility of trade show staff to actively start conversations with attendees using Icebreakers. That means striking up conversations with passersby and initiating conversation with those already in your exhibit space.

As you’ll learn in Tradeshow Basecamp™, great icebreakers are open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those that require more than a yes or no reply. They are much more likely to make a trade show attendee stop to think about their response, giving you an opening to continue the conversation! Learn more about how to create icebreakers that stop traffic in this article.

Hanging Signs—For Large Spaces

Signs that hang from the expo ceiling aren’t necessarily cheap. However, if you have a larger exhibit space they are unfortunately a must. At a large trade show, a well-designed hanging sign can attract attention from a great distance, making it easy for attendees to find you. A great hanging sign should include attractive colors, include your brand name and a descriptive tagline about what you offer.

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

Check out our article on Trade Show Tips and Tricks.

Staff Training: Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

The purpose of exhibiting at a trade show is of course to sell! To ensure that your trade show is profitable, make sure that all staff working your trade show exhibit understands the following:

  • Your business sales goals
  • How to start conversations that can lead to a sale with Icebreakers
  • How to qualify leads during a conversation with a potential customer using a Lead Interview
  • When to Disengage from conversations that will never lead to a sale
  • How to propose Next Steps that meet a sales goal

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™

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