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A Trade Show Strategy Plan for Outside the Booth

November 21, 2018

When devising a trade show strategy plan, there’s good reason to focus on your booth. After all, it’s your marketing home base, and your best opportunity to attract prospects with an offer that speaks directly to their needs and desires.

Trade Show Strategy PlanBut sometimes it’s important to venture off the island and explore everything else the trade show event has to offer. A well-designed trade show strategy plan leverages every available opportunity to connect with prospects in and outside the booth.

For the best advice on how to take advantage of every ounce of a trade show event—including those trips to the restroom—we consulted with our very own Strategic Partnership and Trade Show Ninja, Kelly Kenney.

When devising a trade show strategy plan for meeting prospects outside the booth, Kelly does her pre-event homework by reviewing all the content tracks that are being offered and identifying specific workshops she believes will attract her target prospect.

“I look at them as much for the content as who is going to be in the audience. In my mind, it’s who’s going to be in the audience that’s much more important and it’s the content that drives who will attend.”

Kelly does an evaluation and determines which workshops she believes her prospects will attend, where her competitors might be, and which of her partners are presenting. All this goes into her trade show strategy plan for the event.

“If it’s a really good topic, I keep two or three questions in my pocket. Not because I’m dying to know the answer but because I’m dying to stand up and ask a great question that will a) get me seen b) get me the content I’m looking for, and c) be useful for a conversation later on.”

Wherever she is at a workshop or content event, Kelly’s eyes are always on the crowd. She scans the room and makes special note of who is in attendance. In her experience, there’s huge value in being able to connect with someone later on by saying: “Hey, what did you think of that session?”

The ability to connect over a shared experience has the power to immediately move a conversation away from icebreaker topics and right into building a meaningful connection.

Trade Show Strategy PlanKelly doesn’t limit herself to the audience; she looks at speakers, panelists, and moderators as well. For those of particular interest, she sends them a LinkedIn message before the show letting them know she’s interested in their topic, plans on attending their event, and requests a meeting to follow.

Kelly also doesn’t limit her prospect search to workshops and she’s not afraid to admit that the restroom is sometimes the best place to have a really good conversation.

“Because most events are male-dominated, it’s a chance for women to relax. You’d be amazed by the great conversations you can have in the restroom.”

Outside of the restroom, Kelly looks to connect with anyone, anywhere whose wearing a badge. She calls it the lottery system of networking because these are not necessarily people she’s targeted as potential prospects. Rather, these conversations may ultimately be helpful in the future.

“You don’t know who they know or what you’ll glean from these conversations but it’s always interesting to learn about their industry experience. It’s the random gifts that you receive from being alert and engaged at a show.”

Click here for more advice from Kelly on the value of keeping open and staying focused on the trade show floor.

We interviewed Kelly on October 23rd as part of a series we’re offering at MEET: Coffee and Conversation. Inform your trade show strategy plan with more expert advice from Kelly Kenney, Strategy Partnership and Trade Show Ninja by tuning into our full interview here.


MEET ( helps B2B growth companies and pavilion hosts effectively leverage at trade shows and in-person events. MEET’s processes help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward. Contact Bill Kenney at MEET today for a free trade show participation assessment or +1 (860) 573-4821.