How to Make Your First Trade Show a Success

Trade shows are an excellent way to build relationships, connect with qualified leads and potentially grow your business.

Planning a successful trade show, however, can be challenging for first-timers. It requires creativity, organization and resilience, as well as a willingness to step into the unknown.

Ultimately, the amount of effort that you put forth when preparing for the event will determine how successful it will be for your company.

Even for seasoned professionals, getting ready for a trade show isn’t easy. There are always several variables in play, and what worked great for one show may not be so great for another. For first-timers, figuring it all out and actually being successful the first time around can seem all but impossible.

If you are new to the world of trade shows but want to start attending them to grow your business, here are a few tips on how to prepare for your first trade show.

Start Planning Well in Advance

Planning ahead is the number one most important thing you can do to ensure that your first trade show will be a success. This is one situation where waiting until the last minute never works out in your favor, so start planning as early as possible.

Figure out exactly who will be representing your company at the event and inform them of travel dates as soon as you can. Book flights early to ensure the best deals and secure blocks of rooms at a local hotel before they sell out.

And of course, be sure to pay for your space at the trade show as soon as possible too! Spaces fill up fast, so you definitely do not want to wait until the last minute.

Figure Out Your Campaign

Deciding who will be attending the event and booking all your travel and hotel reservations are just a few pieces of the puzzle.

You also need to nail down your campaign for the event. Think about your goal and what you would like to accomplish. Are you using the event to launch a brand new product? Do you have major news to share? Are you trying to build awareness of a brand that you’ve just recently launched?

Figure out what you want to do while you’re at the show and how to best accomplish it. If you are working on building brand awareness, you may want to stock up on swag, like t-shirts, coffee cups and tote bags, to give away to qualified leads. You should also order some smaller items, like pens and business cards, to hand out to just about everyone who stops by your booth or table.

Prepare product sheets, price lists and any other documentation you may need during the event. Outline your sales pitch and what you will say to those who visit your booth. And practice it until it feels like second nature. Even if it’s your first trade show, you want to sound and act like a seasoned professional.

Train Your Teams

Chances are, you’ll have multiple teams from your company present at the trade show. You’ll likely have members of your executing, sales and marketing teams, so it’s extremely important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has been properly trained.

Create a document that clearly outlines your expectations and what everyone needs to do to ensure that those expectations are met. Also include phone numbers for everyone who is attending the event, as well as any other important contact information. Include meeting times and booth hours on the document and on everyone’s calendars.

A week or so before the trade show, schedule a prep meeting. During the meeting, go over things like the schedule for the event, goals, hotel and venue information, dress code, booth hours, and any other pertinent information. Allow time for questions and make sure everyone understands what’s going on at the end of the meeting.

Have Fun Giveaways

The importance of giveaways cannot be overstated. Fun giveaways draw more people to your booth and get them engaged with your brand.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you should be willing to invest a decent amount of time and money to come up with giveaways and activities that will draw people in and get them interested in your company.

Get creative. Everyone is doing prize wheels right now. Think outside the box and come up with something else that fits well with your brand and the types of products or services you offer.

If your business is a technology company, for example, you could come up with a simple computer game that visitors to your booth can play to win prizes. If you sell athletic equipment, you could set up a space where people can win various items depending on the number of basketballs they successfully sink in the hoop or how many strokes it takes them to get a golf ball into a cup. Skip the boring giveaways and come up with something that will draw people in and make them really want to engage.

With that in mind, make sure you have giveaway items that people will actually want to win. You probably won’t have people lining up to play a game if the top prize is a pen. Smaller prizes are must-haves, but you also need to have at least a few items with higher perceived values to draw people in.

Think hooded sweatshirts, jackets, and the like. Buying wholesale apparel for a trade show is more affordable than you may think, and it can have a huge impact on your success at the event. Consider offering a major grand prize like a kayak or a high-end cooler.


Getting ready for a trade show is a lot of work, but with proper planning, you can make it a success.

Start by making your plans well in advance to ensure you have enough time to act upon any problems or unexpected tasks that come your way. That way, you’ll have more than enough time to refine your ideas and potentially even come up with new and exciting ones!

Once your plans are set, you can train your team and give the show a test run with an on-site mock up. Being well-prepared should be enough to calm any pre-show jitters and work out all the kinks before the big day, ensuring a smooth and successful event! To take your trade show marketing further you could also look to utilize a range of digital marketing tactics aimed at event attendees before, during and after the event concludes. This article outlines some pretty good ways digital marketing can support offline events.