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It’s easy to attend exhibitions and trade shows and be uncertain if it was worth the investment. It can take a while to know if you have a long sales cycle.

To ensure your time is well invested, make a plan to work smart in prep, on site and afterwards.

Here are some steps you can take in advance which will make your investment in time travel, exhibit fees and other costs worthwhile.

1) Prep your route.
At major events, it’s worth planning where to start so you can get round the maximum number of your target companies by your priority and proximity of stand location. There’s usually a show plan on the exhibitors’ pages of the show website.

It also makes it easier if you have a team on site to work the whole event. You won’t duplicate and will cover all your hottest prospects and priority clients.

2) Contact your prime targets – existing clients and prospects in advance.

Use the event organisers’ platform which will have contact info and maybe a messaging facility. Supplement it with direct mail, emails and LinkedIn messages.

Call and get meetings in the diary for everyone on your hot list.

Where you don’t get a meeting, plan a walk round and go onto their stand. You may get lucky. If not, then put them into your nurture campaign.

3) Research your hot list and others you are meeting

Prepare. If you haven’t researched your hot list, check them out properly. Are they creditworthy?

Select the news tab on the Google search to get the latest news stories about them.

Check them out on LinkedIn. Who can introduce you? Download a copy of our book written with LinkedIn if you don’t know how to prospect effectively using LinkedIn.

4) Get a speaking slot.

Most tradeshows have conferences on site. Make friends with the person responsible for filling the speaking slots and panels. It makes you an authority and will differentiate you from the competition.

Write some blog posts before the event. Email your contact list to tell them you are speaking. Talk to the trade media and get quoted.

Do a good job and your prospects will be standing in line to talk to you after you’ve spoken.

5) Plan to launch your new product or service.

Have an event to launch a new product or service. Send out invitation cards in the mail – not just email invites.

Make an announcement. Get it covered in the show media and trade journals.

6) Prepare your follow up before you go.

Don’t wait to write your follow up emails and nurture campaigns. Do it before you go.

Then you’ll be able to pop your new contacts into your system without delay.

7) Use tech to help you

If there’s an event app, download it before you go. You may be able to fill any time that becomes free by contacting someone on site using it.

Transcribe the business cards you collect. Scan your business cards using your phone or tablet. Use an app like FullContact which uses humans to transcribe the cards. Check out what your CRM providers recommends as there may be an automatic sync of data.You’ll need to check them afterwards but it’s better than digital transcriotion.

You can also get a software widget such as a zap from Zapier so they are fed directly into your CRM without you having to upload them. You can set up your follow up emails will go automatically.

8) Never eat alone

Make arrangements for breakfast, lunch & dinner before the event.

Don’t waste breakfast on a team meeting. Or if you need to meet your stand team first thing, have a second breakfast – a quiet start to the day with an important contact in the dining room of the best hotel. You can sometime have some of the best chance encounters with CEOs of major prospects as you go into breakfast.

Use other meals for hot pre-qualified prospects, valued clients and referrals. Can you introduce people you know who could do business?

Can you make the referral, and connect one of your clients to another company or person they want to do business with?

Would one of your clients introduce you to over lunch or dinner to someone they know well who you want to do business with?

Drinks reception are also useful for making new connections. They need a different strategy.

Find out if the VIPs attend or not and plan your strategy accordingly. Either way, never get drunk. It looks bad and affects your performance the following day.

Arrange to connect with people on your warm list at drinks receptions. You may not meet them all – but you will have been in contact before the event and can follow up afterwards if you miss them.

If you want more tips on trade shows & exhibitions, read the earlier blog on 9 steps to closing more business .

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