Trade Show Exhibiting in a Ten-Ring Circus

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Trade Show Exhibiting

Trade show exhibiting is neither one size fits all, nor end-all be-all. In fact, trade show exhibiting is quite the opposite. It is a customized, dynamic process that requires extensive preparation. Additionally, it represents a relatively small segment of a much larger marketing and sales opportunity. In this blog post, we’ll unpack three common challenges that exhibitors face when developing a trade show exhibiting strategy:

  • ensuring communication is localized and audience-centered;
  • effectively preparing the team for execution;
  • and leveraging the full value of the event

For more information on the 8 keys to improving your exhibiting ROI, check out our webinar series.

The capacity to customize your trade show exhibition strategy based on where your event will take place and who will be in attendance is critical. It is common for exhibitors to think that developing a single script and employing it through a one-dimensional mode of communication will drive sufficient ROI. The reality is quite the opposite. Exhibitors must revisit their buyer personas before each trade show to ensure that language, materials, and offers—everything—is congruent with the audience. Being audience-centered encourages exhibitors to think of each event as a unique set of intended buyers.

Developing a customizable trade show exhibiting strategy requires preparation. As you’ll hear us say over and over again, 90% of the race is won before you cross the starting line, and the more exhibitors can do to guarantee value from an event before it takes place, the better the results will be. That means preparing materials, but perhaps more importantly, preparing the team to execute.

Trade Show Exhibiting

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” The effectiveness of sales people should not be judged by how busy they are during the event. Ultimately trade shows are finite opportunities and the people that attend a given event on a given day, given month, or given year, will not be the same the next time around. Each trade show event represents a perishable opportunity and the key to leveraging absolute value is to prepare one’s team for absolute success. That means making sure they are oriented to who will be in attendance, empowered to execute on strategy, and able to self-direct when opportunities present themselves.

Finally, we’d like to acknowledge that it’s actually quite hard to leverage all of the value offered at a trade show event. Think of how hard it is to focus your attention at a three-ring circus. Trade shows are more like ten-ring circuses. Maximizing your leverage capacity requires first, understanding the full value scope available, and second, having a plan to execute on that full scope.

At MEET, we recommend doing less, better. In other words, commit time and resources toward fewer events, and ensure you are extracting maximum value.  Here are a few ideas for how to do this:

  • Engage in pre-event marketing—offered by host and/or self-generated
  • Sponsor a feature—it is rare that we recommend sponsoring but when we do we suggest sponsoring a feature that allows you 2-way participant interaction
  • Speak at a session
  • Walk through and visit hospitality events
  • Engage in cooperative marketing either with vendors or other marketers
  • Volunteer to join the organizing committee
  • Invite customers and partners to the event
  • Host a post-event marketing event

Trade show hosts offer an array of assets to exhibitors that often get left on the shelf. Be sure to take full advantage of each event opportunity—we can help.

Trade show exhibiting is far from one size fits all, or end-all be-all. Each event requires a unique execution strategy, careful team preparation, and a wide-angle lens to capture the full excitement in every ring.


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.

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