Success is dependent on effort. ~ Sophocles

It can be puzzling. How do you define trade show success? Are you exhibiting to increase brand awareness? Are you unveiling a new product or service and planning a huge launch? Or, like most companies, do you hope to gain new prospects that lead to sales? One thing is for sure: Trade shows mean business! In fact, a recent survey showed that 46 percent of executive decision makers make purchasing decisions while attending a show. (Source: Sage World) Even in today’s digital world, face-to-face events pay big dividends.

The trick for exhibitors is to stand out from the sea of other booths in order to make a great first impression. Here’s the good news: it’s not brain surgery to create an exhibit that attendees will remember.

1. Keep your booth in tip-top shape

Inspect your exhibit regularly. If the light bulbs that highlight your products and signage are out, change them. If the properties are damaged in any way, fix them. Make sure your graphics remain vibrant and up to date with your current logo and color scheme. All aspects of the appearance of the booth should be tended to so it looks refreshed and new, even if that means purchasing or renting a new exhibit.

During the show take out the trash and pick up the liter. Take pride in your booth’s appearance so visitors will know you have pride in your company too!

Not a good look!

2. Your signage and messaging must be clear & concise

This seems like an easy concept, but we’ve seen booths where the company name can’t be discerned. It’s not fair to attendees if they have to guess which booth they’re looking at! Make sure your exhibit signage is a haven of clarity and simplicity, and can be seen at long, medium and close range. Your company logo should be clear, concise, uncluttered and consistent.  Your goal should be that people can easily read and understand your company’s primary messaging, so they don’t lose interest and walk away.

Additionally, products should be organized and prominently displayed.

Ford booth from 2016 with signage visible from all levels.

3. Give people a reason to come into your booth

You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of attendees. After all, they have places to go and people to see.  Provide an immersive experience, or catch their eye with movement and action, such as:

  • Interactive media
  • An in-booth presentation
  • Product demos
  • A game or contest
  • A prize wheel
  • Guided booth tours
  • Infotainers (i.e. magicians)
  • Charging stations
  • A refreshment lounge

Offer people an engaging experience while learning about your brand. Whether a booth is big or small, wouldn’t you rather visit one that is active and fun? Here’s the payoff, after you’ve given people a reason to enter your booth, now you have an exhibit full of potential buyers. Make sure your staff is trained and ready to capture leads and take advantage of the opportunity.

By the way, in return for a visitor’s time leave them with a token of your appreciation, such as a branded gift, which they can actually use and remember you by.

Countdown to product reveal and multiple presentations in the Siemens Booth at AACC

4. Staff your exhibit with the right people

Here’s the pièce de résistance. To attendees, the most important factor that builds loyalty to a brand is the quality of face-to-face interactions! The second most important factor is the quality of product interactions. (Source: CEIR)

Instructing staff not to chew gum, talk or text, cluster with colleagues and basically ignore visitors is the easy part. But go further. Attendees are desperate for exhibit staff to listen more and ask the right questions. Find out their interests, then make sure your team is able to tell a tailored story about how your company’s solutions can help them in their businesses. Your team should have in-depth product knowledge and positive, approachable attitudes. In short, bring your A-team. People notice and it matters.

TPG Product Specialist interacts with customer at the Mid-America Trucking Show

5. Be social

According to TPG Executive Director, Christina Piedlow:

A good social media strategy should start long before the doors to the convention floor open. Once you’ve committed to the show, you should:

  • Follow the sponsoring association on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Pay attention to their hashtags and incorporate them into your strategy.
  • Become an active poster and re-tweeter.

This will help you connect with your fellow attendees and raise awareness. Advertise before, during and after to keep the conversation going.

6. Have a lead capture plan

Whether you gather business cards (we don’t recommend this method) or you take advantage of the lead retrieval technology available at the majority of trade shows, you must have a lead capture strategy. Having your team engage with booth visitors and answer a couple of questions on a custom survey provides your sales team with the qualifying information they need to follow up with hot leads and make sales down the line. Winging it is not a plan.

Trade Show Engagement

Our Brand Ambassador takes a lead for our client Travelers Insurance at RIMS.

7. Follow up!

35 – 50 percent of trade show sales go to the vendor who responds first. (Source: Here’s another great stat: 54 percent of sales made from a trade show lead only require three or fewer calls! (Source: CEIR) But did you know that only 22% of exhibiting companies follow up within the sweet spot of 24 to 48 hours of the show? What is the moral of the story? Follow up on trade show leads and do so quickly to watch your sales soar.


No matter how you define trade show success, the global exhibition market was valued at US$13.87 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to US$36.31 billion by 2026. It’s no wonder why companies continue to include trade shows in their marketing mix. Although exhibiting at a trade show can be an expensive proposition, following these seven cost-effective tips will provide you with a simple method to solve the trade show success puzzle.

C.C. Carr, TPG Talent Manager, Onsite Director, Writer

Related: Booth Etiquette in the Age of COVID   8 Key Elements of Successful Trade Show Planning

Times have changed. TPG’s creative team will help you develop a process for the unplannable. Experts in virtual, hybrid and live events for when the world changes. Let’s do something wonderful together.