The more dependent we become on technology, the more important face-to-face interactions become. ~ Marc Pomerleau, Director of Strategy, Freeman XP

Here’s the beauty about trade shows. The attendees are already there to see the latest in products and services in their industry. They’re a captive audience and it sure beats cold calling. Attendees know full well most companies will ask to scan their badges and most are happy to comply. Plus, and this is a huge plus, trade show attendees don’t display the usual apprehension and resentment that characterizes traditional direct sales. That doesn’t mean every visitor to your booth will be a hot prospect, but they may be in the future. Which is why your exhibit team should interact with every visitor. You never know who is going to become a customer down the line.  So, if you’re going to scan badges to meet lead retrieval goals anyway, why not use the opportunity to engage visitors and start conversations?

Trade Show Leads

Scanner. Photo credit CompuSystems.

Create a Custom Survey

Often overlooked is the ability to create a customized survey that links to the customer scan. I can’t think of one lead retrieval vendor, or customized lead app that can’t accommodate a survey nowadays. Depending on the answers to those survey questions, staffers can take a deeper dive into the visitor’s interests, needs and pain-points. For instance, their answers may allow you to guide that visitor to the area of the booth that covers their interests or solves a problem, and to the appropriate company rep who can continue the dialogue.


We recommend to our trade show clients that they develop five or six relevant multiple-choice survey questions to help the sales team evaluate the direction they should take with that visitor and determine if they’re a quality lead. Our experience has shown that most attendees don’t mind answering a few questions, especially if it doesn’t take long – that’s the key! You can even offer the visitor a branded gift for doing so. Use the survey to drill down into customer interests.  In short, lead retrieval can be the start of exploration. Our clients in the healthcare, automotive, and insurance industries have learned that lead retrieval can be an interactive and engaging brand experience for attendees by using the survey to educate, explore and even entertain visitors.

Trade Show Engagement

Capturing a lead and engaging visitors at RIMS.

As stated, not every visitor is a prospect.  At that point you can use the capture and release technique and move on. But the accumulation of leads, hot or not, provides your company with powerful data, such as what percentage of scanned visitors were interested in ABC or XYZ product? What percentage are planning on purchasing within 0-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-12 months, or not any time soon? Does that visitor want to be contacted by a company representative? Will the visitor allow their email to be used for future communication? The point is, now you have a wealth of data, not only from the answers to the survey questions, but from the attendee’s registration information that’s pulled from the scan. Perfect for personalized follow up opportunities!


  1. Use the scan to start the conversation and the trade show sales cycle. Ask, “what brings you to the show and into our booth”? “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
  2. Use survey questions to guide the customer to the appropriate rep or product within your exhibit.
  3. Ask about buying time preferences to determine if more time should be given to this attendee right now, or followed up upon down the line.
  4. The engagement can continue post-show by sending thank you emails to everyone you scanned, and links to product literature. We are able to do that with the custom lead application we developed for Ford Commercial Vehicles

But wait there’s more! For a little fun and to encourage engagement even after the show, have someone take photos of staffers scanning an attendee and having a conversation. Post those photos (with approval) to social platforms and link to that visitor’s own social media.

Trade Show Staffing

TPG Product Specialist, Peter, interacting with a visitor at the Mid American Trucking Show.


Much is made about how engaging attendees results in lead capture, but the other way around is also an opportunity to turn exhibit visitors into prospects. Lead retrieval can be much more than collecting data at trade shows. As important as that is, scanning badges can further human interaction and relationship building that make trade shows so unique. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of the digital and the personal that make trade shows valuable. Don’t let capturing a lead become mechanical and impersonal. Use the occasion to turn badge scanning into spreading goodwill and building relationships that start the trade show sales cycle! Don’t scan and scat. SCAN AND ENGAGE!

C.C. Carr - Lead Onsite Director

C.C. Carr – Lead Onsite Director

Related Articles: Taking the Lead – Why a Lead Generation Program is the Key to Event Success Ditch the Fishbowl – Lead Retrieval in the Digital Age