The 9 Rules to Help Any Exhibitor Succeed at a Trade Show

Helpful tips for entrepreneurs to navigate trade shows.


Exhibiting at any of the hundreds trade shows that take place in the US can be a challenge for any seasoned vendor. With all the planning that goes around it, it’s a wonder how many business owners feel overwhelmed once they arrive to the large convention centers were they set their booths up.

To help alleviate the thought process, I have some helpful tips that will give any entrepreneur some relief along the way.

My nine tips are to make a show you can remember:

1. Pick the right city

If you are a first-time exhibitor and own a fairly new business, try to stay close to home.

Traveling cross country for a first time exhibitor can present its challenges. From transportation, to shipment of your samples, the booth itself, banners.

Start small and build from your experience, like many things in life, it can be a trial and error situation for most business owners. Particularly when starting out and resources are limited.

2.  The size of the booth.

Once you have decided the show and city you are traveling to, be sure to find out the exact dimensions of your space.

Most likely you will be far away from the office, and you should have with you everything that you need. Some prefer to have a custom booth made, or have banners and/or a backdrop printed out, more the reason to know exactly what you can fit in the space you have.

3.  What does my space come with?

It is common that trade shows will offer a free table, chairs and even carpeting, maybe a trash can.

These are important things to know when you are in the initial stages of prepping for the show. If you are running on limited number of resources and the event provides tables, your budget has just dropped significantly.

If there is no carpeting in your space, then you need to plan out what will you have and make it either practical, or one that will go well with the rest of the design. Is there lighting?

Most exhibitors prefer to bring their own lights; as indirect lighting will enhance any booth. Is there an electrical outlet? Think of anything electrical you may need to plug in, a cellphone charger, your computer, the lights, etc.

4.  The extra costs

This relates to the tip from above. Anything and everything that is not included in your booth will come with an extra charge, and an expensive one that is. Because the crew inside a convention center is a separate contractor, expect the prices for anything they do or provide to be up higher and more so if you are exhibiting in any major city.

5.  Pre-show Marketing

The key to any good show is to ensure you get attendees visiting your booth.

One good way of generating this flow is the pre-show marketing strategy you have in place. This is usually planned out months in advance, if not a year.

The organizing show will normally rent out the attendee list from the previous year and most trade attendees will commonly visit the same show every year.

You need to send out invitations, a simple postcard will do or an E-blast, whichever suits your budget or preference. Ensure you have a clear message, images of your products or a description of your services. Offer a one-time special show discount for new clients.

Be creative and come up with a good marketing piece, you need to create the buzz prior to the show.

Next page: 6 through 9 and Takeaway

Andrea Giraldo
Andrea Giraldo
Andrea Giraldo, Partner, Director Translation Initiatives, has spent the last ten years helping people introduce their products to the US market, start new businesses as well as helping take existing businesses to the next level. A creative thinker and entrepreneur, she is founder/owner of Giraldo Farms, importing coffee that is in nationwide distribution. Giraldo has a degree in Business and Economic Development from Fordham University and considered an expert in international trade. She has been providing bilingual advisement to small businesses in the New York Metro area for the last six years.

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