Preparing to attend a Trade Show or Exhibition

Preparing for a Trade Show or Exhibition

Perhaps the first stages in preparing for a Trade Show are:

  • to consider why Trade Shows are a part of your promotional/marketing activity … and why this Trade Show in particular is important. (This implies that you have done some research about the Show – so that you know the types – and numbers – of people likely to attend. Are you attending:

to build brand awareness?

to establish credibility?

to learn about a particular market and its requirements?

to enter a particular market?

to find new clients/customers/partners?

to meet existing clients/customers/partners?

to observe competitors?

to understand competitiveness?

to meet potential investors?

  • to think through what your expectations are … and whether they are reasonable. Of course if this is your first Trade Show, this may not be easy but you should have some idea of what you expect to gain from attending.

For your first trade show you might decide to attend as a visitor, rather than as an exhibitor – to get a feel for the event (and such events in general).

Both of these can be helped by ‘standard’ marketing exercises. For example, at a Trade Show you will get only a short time to influence/impress any potential customer or partner. This means you have to be very clear as to the messages you are trying to get across. It is useful to think about the 3 or 4 key messages you want to impart … and, in particular, why any of the people you meet should want to work with you/buy from you. (This is known in marketing as the ‘elevator pitch’ – what would you say to someone if you met them in an elevator and had to impress them before they got out at their floor.)

Because your time with visitors will be limited, you might consider focusing on only a part of your complete product range … though, of course, you could have materials available that relate to the rest of the range in case questions are asked. Of course you will be expected to know your product range very well … but you will also be expected to know about shipping to those markets represented in the Trade Show.


There are obviously costs associated with attending a Trade Show – both direct and indirect costs ... and ‘opportunity costs’ - the fact that you are attending the event means you are not carrying out other activities. You should establish a budget for the event (which might be a part of your overall promotion/marketing budget) and be reasonable – though controlled – about how and why you spend money.

Items in the budget could include:

  • Registration costs
  • Travel costs
  • Travel documents (passport, visa, etc)
  • Accommodation
  • Hospitality (for potential clients/customers/partners)
  • Booth/Stand costs
  • Costs of (design and printing/production of) promotional materials
  • Business cards (translated into a specific language)
  • Hire costs for equipment (eg projectors, screen, computers)
  • Production/transport of sample products
  • Temporary staff
Available Assistance

Often people attend their first Trade show as part of a trade mission or other collective visit. In such cases, the organization responsible for organizing the delegation might offer some assistance – either direct financial assistance or help in the form of information, guidance and support.


You may have some existing marketing materials but you have to make a judgement as to whether they will work in the context of the fast-moving Trade Show… and whether they will work for the language and culture of the delegates at the particular Show. You need materials that get across their message simply and quickly. Of course if this is your first Trade show, you might need specific materials with which to decorate a stand. You will have to work with the organisers to establish the exact nature of these materials.

Sometimes when there is a form of theme to an overall national or regional delegation – Promoting Pakistan’s Citrus Fruits, for example – the organizer of the delegation might make some generic materials available to which you add materials relating to your specific product(s). The organizer might want a number of delegates to use the same design style, however, to re-inforce the overall branding message.


The Trade Show might have mechanisms by which you can establish some contact with visitors before the show. This might give you a chance to decide who you would like to meet … and even make direct contact and set up an appointment.


There are several ways in which you might want to dress – to represent your country and make a statement by having some elements of national dress … or in a very smart, businesslike and professional way … but make sure you wear comfortable shoes!

When there

Don’t be afraid to visit your competitors’ booths or stands. Find out what they are doing that could help you at your next Trade Show. Try to find out whether there are specific shows as part of the overall ‘circuit’ that they think of as particularly important or successful.

After the event

Make some notes to record your impressions. Try to remember what went well, what worked … and what didn’t. Think about what you might do differently next time.

Final lessons

The people you will meet:

Do not want to waste time

Will want very precise detailed information

Will want to know why they should do business with you.

Make sure you can meet their needs.


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science - and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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