Walking the Trade Show Floor, How to Get Value When You Can’t Exhibit Part 1

In late July, our team at MEET launched an exciting series: Coffee and Conversation, periodic live-stream interviews with experts and veterans in the trade show, event, and customer acquisition industries.

Our goal with these conversations is to share the wisdom that comes from work on the ground and to identify common challenges and simple solutions.

Trade Show Floor

On October 23rd we spoke with Kelly Kenney, Strategic Partnerships and Trade Show Ninja at MEET on the topic: Walking the Trade Show Floor, How to Get Value When You Can’t Exhibit. Our goal was to explore how B2B companies can approach and leverage events as part their trade show strategy plan beyond exhibiting.

Our first question for Kelly was to unpack her role and title at MEET.

What does it mean to be a ninja on the trade show floor?

Kelly’s responsibilities vary from devising client strategy, managing the market and event research team, and working with clients on matching their buyer personas with specific trade show opportunities. When she hits the trade show floor, that’s when she flexes her ninja skills.

“First, being a ninja means having an innate love of trade shows. It means being excited and truly curious about meeting people and figuring out who they are, why they’re there, and how we can work together or make connections for each other.”

How do you find your own trade show ninja?

We’ve found that among the best interview questions you can ask a potential hire is what seat they might choose if boarding a Southwest Airlines flight. A true ninja will pass an empty row just to snag that middle seat between two strangers because they want to meet and learn from new people.  That’s Kelly Kenney.

At MEET, we believe that 90% of the race is won before it begins, meaning that the vast majority of value you can derive from a trade show event is the result of good preparation.

What are some of the things you do to prepare for an event?

Kelly started by saying it’s important to know precisely why this particular show offers the best opportunity to meet your target prospect. That means knowing who is going to be there and precisely who you’re looking to meet. “If you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s really hard to find it.”

All this requires research, carefully exploring the content, looking at the list of exhibitors one by one, and categorizing them by prospect, competitor and partner.

Trade Show Floor

“If you don’t have those lined up and prioritized, you can’t effectively walk a trade show floor. When I get there I’ve mapped out where I want to go and I have a list of who I’m there to meet.”

In dividing the trade show floor into a series of categories: prospects, potential customers, partners, and competitors that correctly implies that each requires a different approach.

What is your objective and strategy approaching a potential customer’s booth?

“I try to engage and get them talking about why they selected this show and what, if executed really well, makes this a successful event for them. For me, it’s about getting them to talk about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Hopefully, at some point, they turn around and say why do you ask?”

Kelly also strives to build rapport with potential customers. Coming off too aggressively with rapid-fire questions may make them suspicious. Rather, balance the conversation with some sharing about why you’re there and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“I probably over-share and say things that a lot of people wouldn’t say, but I find it gives them the sense that you’re there for a conversation and not just fact-finding. It also allows them to get a sense of who they’re talking to so they know how to position themselves. I try to stay away from chatty stuff like—gosh are your feet sore? That becomes wasted time. I am really focused on getting them to talk, revealing a little bit and sharing.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Kelly Kenney to learn more about her trade show floor ninja tactics.


MEET (meetroi.com) 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 bill@meetroi.com or +1 (860) 573-4821

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