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If you’re wanting to take your business idea, or product, to the next level then you might have toyed with the idea of attending a trade show.  Indeed, you might have visited a few relevant trade shows to suss out the competition and shape your own product development.

There’s a huge difference, however, from being a visitor at a trade show and an exhibitor, the main difference being that of having much more to lose as an exhibitor in the sense that trade shows aren’t usually very cheap and therefore you will feel a fair amount of pressure to get a return on your investment.

Therefore, if you’re looking to take your side hustle or home based business to the next  level by attending a trade show you’ll want to make sure you approach it with your head screwed on.  The last thing you want is to approach this thinking you are guaranteed to get orders or recoup your costs.

In fact, many people will be in the same position you once were where they are coming to check out the competition, refine their own ideas, and gain inspiration from your marketing material. Therefore, don’t assume that just because you pay a small fortune for a stand you will automatically have qualified prospects checking you out.

Indeed, the majority of serious buyers (i.e. corporate buyers) will be in pre-arranged meetings rather than traipsing around the trade show.  So you may want to think about whether a trade show is worth the investment. While you can create a captivating stand with product demonstrations and free samples, there’s no guarantee you will make a return on your investment.

That said, there are a few things you can do to make the most of your first trade show and get things off to a good start.

It’s imperative you consider an effective strategy in terms of what it is you want to achieve;  for instance, is it that you want to sell your item to the public and make as much retail profit as possible, or is it that you want to secure some meetings with big box stores,  or even conduct market research.

This way, you will  have a metric to work against with regard to return on investment, as it’s not just a return on cash investment you’ll be looking for  – if your goal, for instance, is to get brand exposure and be seen by influencers, this might not have an immediate cash value, but ten shout outs on social media could be a sizable yield if you’re wanting to create awareness rather than retail profit at this point.

The one thing you want to avoid is something you might have seen yourself, at a trade show, where someone is sat deflated, with their head in their hands, or lost in their mobile phone – looking as if they are waiting for a bus that’s never coming.  You are ultimately responsible for the results you create and the energy you bring to the party is what you will get back; therefore, the first thing to consider is your “state”.


This is not a step in the process, per se, it’s more like  a foundational principle. Your emotional state determines where your focus goes and how your perform.  For instance, have you ever met someone at a trade show that is full of energy, radiating positive vibes, and you just want to be around them – then, in the next booth there’s someone that is low in mood, lethargic and just a bit grumpy.

Your emotional state is going to determine your results more than anything else.  Therefore, when thinking about the following steps in the process, you will want to be mindful of the  energetic state you will require to attract, connect and convert visitors.


The first thing you need to do is to attract people to your stand, this is where things like pull up banner displays come into place… though one of the most effective ways of attracting attention is to actually speak on stage and give a presentation about a problem your target audience faces.

This can be particularly useful at business-to-business events, as if you can position yourself as a subject expert (which can be as simple as having a stage to speak on) your authority instantly goes up, and people pay much more attention to what you have to say as you aren’t selling in that position – you are educating.

This will attract people to your stand, as you are providing value in an authoritative way rather than trying to “sell” the whole time.


The second step is to engage.  We’ve covered the speaking aspect, which can be a very engaging way to attract attention but at the fundamental core of engaging people is providing value.  For instance, this could be through offering information within a keynote presentation, or a free sample, prize draw, or even a free massage at your stand.

Indeed, one of the best strategies when selling beauty products, for instance, is to offer a free hand massage or facial using the products in question – this way you are creating a sense of reciprocation, in that when you give something away for free most people feel the emotional need to give something back (even if this is their attention).

Many people put  together product literature that is all  about their product, yet, if you were to have a genuinely interesting report that provided substantial value to your target audience you are likely to create a much stronger connection and draw to your particular product.

The best way of using ‘sales material’  is not to have it as sales material but to have it as a value-added communication tool that provides something of substantial value.

People don’t want a sales pitch; they want to engage in content that inspires or educates them to take action – be that written or verbal.


The final step is to turn prospects into customers, yet at a trade show, the majority of people focus way too much on selling and closing deals, rather than building long term relationships with prospective customers and secure meetings.  Many people at a trade show are tired and overwhelmed, meaning they are less likely to make a positive decision, so focus more on converting their interest into a meeting rather than a sale – and you are likely to get much better results.