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How to Win at Your Next Technology Trade Show

6 Tactics for Exhibit Hall Victory
Anne Robertson, Managing Director, Public Relations

If you’re like most technology company CMOs, you’re dreading that upcoming trade show—another week of manning a cramped booth in the exhibit hall, hoping people will stop by so you can beg for business cards. You know the drill: stale-smelling hotel rooms, glib competitors, boring network gatherings and the sinking feeling that you won’t come away with solid leads.

You’d probably prefer to cancel all conferences and trade shows, but they work; 38% of trade show attendees say their buying decisions are influenced when visiting exhibits.1

Gather Intelligence

Resist the temptation to rush and exhibit at the next available trade show. You have a more important task.

You should still attend the conference, but only to gather intelligence. Rather than being constricted to a 10x10 booth, you’re now free to perform advance reconnaissance. What are your competitors doing? How big is their exhibit space? How are they promoting themselves throughout the conference? Which company stands out and why? Which tactics attract decision makers?

Take lots of notes and photos. This is the crucial fact-finding phase, an opportunity to obtain information, observe best practices to prepare for the next step.

Set your strategy 

The biggest mistake exhibitors make is not having a plan. They often show up, hang a banner in a booth and try to make contacts. But they usually do this without a strategic blueprint.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never arrive at your destination. During this step, take the time to create specific and measurable goals. Some sample goals might be:

  • Raise awareness
  • Make appointments with 10 buyers
  • Differentiate your company from others
  • Attract more visitors to your exhibit space than competitors X, Y and Z
  • Test messaging
  • Demonstrate thought leadership

Don’t try to do everything. Narrow your focus. Decide exactly what you want to accomplish. Then, design all marketing communications and public relations tactics to deliver on your objectives.

Stand out

If your objective is to turn heads in the exhibit hall, then think big. Reserve the largest booth space you can afford and snap up premium high-traffic placement. Install a large-screen monitor, couches and demonstration kiosks to engage your target audiences and make them feel welcome.

Expand your presence by sponsoring a meal or session at the conference, which often permits you to introduce a keynote speaker and distribute collateral demonstrating your expertise. You can pay extra to have strategic communications materials delivered to participants’ hotel rooms.

Some companies stage their own event outside of the conference activities, such as an invitation-only dinner or a social affair at a local restaurant or nightclub.

Do media outreach

In addition to potential clients, be sure to extend a hand to the many media representatives who frequently attend technology trade shows.

Exhibitors are usually provided with contact information for all conference attendees, including the media. This will enable to you to contact media influentials prior to the event. As part of your media relations strategy, send influencers a special invitation offering a “sneak peek” of your new product. Consider extending a media exclusive.

Pay attention to details

Here are some easy-to-implement ideas to help make an impact.

  • Don’t hand out business cards. Instead, distribute free thumb drives loaded with media-rich information.
  • Dress for success. All employees in your exhibit area should be wearing the team “uniform.” Whether it’s coat and tie or logo-bearing golf shirt, be sure you look like a cohesive team that planned ahead.
  • Everyone in your company should know what to do when a prospect walks by or enters your exhibit area. Who will greet people? Who will ask for their contact information? Whose job will it be to demonstrate your product?

Involve current customers

Invite two or three current satisfied customers to help staff your exhibit space. Pay their way and they’ll be pleased to provide in-person testimonials to everyone visiting your booth. Happy customers make the best sales people. This is an extremely effective way to promote your product or service.

Guerilla Tactics to Try

Courtesy of Handshake, here are some excellent and fun guerrilla marketing ideas to unleash at your next trade show.2

Swag: Make sure your company’s swag (shirts, hats, buttons, etc.) is cool, and hand it out. Tip cab and shuttle bus drivers, bellhops and bartenders to wear them. Offer them an instant prize if one of your staff sees them wearing it.

Charging: Host a wireless charging station at your booth—and give people a fun activity to do while they wait.

Contest: Hold a contest or raffle—something simple, fast and compelling.

Rewards: Incentivize people to tweet something about your booth, preferably with photos.

Fresh breath: Hand out branded gum or mints that buck the status quo message. Leave attendees with a good taste in their mouth.

Lego fun: Build mini Lego items that resemble one of your products and hand them out at the booth or on the trade show floor.

1: Exhibit Surveys, “Trade Show Benchmarks”
2: Handshake, “22 Guerilla Marketing Ideas for Trade Shows”


We can help you.

LAVIDGE experts can help your company develop a public relations strategy to leverage events to showcase your B2B technology expertise, product and brand. 

Ready for a one-on-one discussion? Give us a call at 480.998.2600 or send email to [email protected].


2017 U.S. Technology Industry Marketing Report

Marketing Report Brochure

This article is a brief abstract of our exclusive and authoritative study that takes the guesswork out of marketing technology to businesses. Rather than speculating about what will drive B2B technology buyers to action, we've asked them.

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