8 Ways to Get More from Trade Shows

4 Ways to get more from attending


 4 Ways to get more from working a booth

Originally published in Wisconsin Agribusiness Quarterly Magazine

Attending a tradeshow

   As in-person conferences come back, we can once again attend our local, statewide and even national tradeshows.  Pre-Covid, we really took them for granted as there were too many for us to attend all of them.  Many producers and salespeople simply quit going to most. However, during the absence, I frequently heard salespeople regret missing out on the shows.  Well, they are back and what a great opportunity to see all the new products, services and technology, as well as a chance to hear some great presentations. 


They are back

and what a great way to see all the new products, services and technology, as well as a chance to hear some great presentations!


#1 Attend with a purpose:

  • Review the agenda of speakers and the list of vendors.
  • Circle those presentations you really want to hear and list out the vendors you want to make sure to see. This will be especially helpful at the really large shows.
  • Do your homework on the vendors/speakers and have a purpose for visiting with them. Homework might be as simple as Googling the company or speaker and learning a bit about them.
  • If you really want to connect, send them an email ahead of time and let them know you would like to meet them. Not sell them.  Not tell them about your products.  Just meet them.

#2 Walk the show floor:

  • I know it’s tempting to stay in the breakout rooms and avoid the high-pressure sales tactics at the booths. Or, if you do wander the floor, you go fast to avoid being caught up in a salesperson trying to sell you.  If this sounds like you, then you are missing out.
  • No one can make you give them your email address nor make you spend 20 minutes at their booth.  You can always greet a vendor, and let them know you need to keep moving.  Let them know, “Maybe, we can visit later.”
  • Keep in mind that booths provide a large portion of revenue for the show. Sometimes all of it.  The vendors need to feel they are engaging with attendees or they won’t come back to the show again.  You really don’t want that.


#3 Get away from your friends

  • No, not permanently. Just for the time period when you are at the trade show.  Most of us office from home, travel to farms or remote agribusinesses, don’t hang out in large crowds, and do our jobs quietly.  A tradeshow can ramp up our social anxiety.  So, we tend to find our home team of co-workers and covey up like quail. 
  • As one sales manager said to a group of his salespeople, “We flew you in from all over the country to learn and network with the top companies and experts in the industry. And, you found the same salespeople you work with back home and covey like a bunch of quail.”  I couldn’t say it any better.  You’ll see them next week and every week thereafter.  So, take this time to get out there and network.


#4 Network…Network…and Network some more

Three people to network with: speakers, vendors, and other attendees.  This can happen just about anywhere at the show.  Networking opportunities:

  • Trade show meals – sit with people you don’t know.
  • Early morning refreshment offering. Most shows provide a continental breakfast time.  Attend and network.  This is often a very quiet time with fewer attendees.  It can be a great time for a short networking conversation.
  • Tradeshow social events. This could be a vendor sponsored evening social, a side trip to tour a local tourist site, or possibly a golf outing.  Go, even if you hate golf.  Go, even if you hate large groups.  Go, even if you want to sit in your hotel room and watch TV.  It’s time to work.  More specifically, it’s time to network.   
  • Networking with Speakers: As a speaker, I know this is one of the untapped resources at a trade show.  After most presentations, several people will come up to me afterwards and connect, ask me questions or share a comment.  First, I really appreciate these opportunities to connect.  Secondly, I almost always offer to give or send them something.  Examples might be articles on the topic I just spoke on, maybe a copy of my book, a recommendation on how to apply the presentation to their specific situation, or maybe I connect them with someone in the industry that can help them.  Either way, they just got more from that tradeshow than most of the others. 
  • Networking with Vendors: Remember my comments from above.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to go to the floor and see the newest products, services and technology.  Engage them with the mindset of learning.  If they go too heavy into a sales pitch, gently interrupt and let them know why you stopped.  It might sound like, “Hey, that sounds good, but the reason I stopped by was to learn about…..”.  Another way to avoid a heavy sales pitch is to ask about ROI, local proof of performance, and who is selling it in the area.  Technology is great.  However, if the salesperson can’t show you how it ties back to your ROI or your customer’s ROI, move on.  The next area you might want to dig into is how it works in your specific area.  Not all products work for all customers nor all locations.  Ask about how it has worked locally. Lastly, ask about who is selling it in this area and online sales. 
  • Networking with Other Attendees: Often, the show will publish the list of attendees.  Review the list for those you would like to meet.  Reach out on social media, email or possibly call them in advance to schedule a brief meeting.  Buy them an early breakfast or meet them at one of the tradeshow meals.  Much better than sitting with random strangers at those events.

Working a Booth

Nothing can feel more confining to a salesperson than being confined for 8 hours inside of a 10 X 10 space.


“Hey, we’re looking for salespeople to work our booth at the state agribusiness conference.  Can you work a few days next week?”


#1 Be Proactive: 

  • Stand up and greet people as they pass by. Don’t sit behind your promotion material and wait for people to stop. Make eye contact and say hello. 
  • Stay off your phone as much as possible. If you have a fellow booth worker that is on their phone for 30 minutes in the booth, ask them to step out and go sit at a nearby table. Nobody is going to approach a person at a booth who is on their phone.  We once had a manager that was on his phone for over 30 minutes dealing with a customer complaint, at times angrily pacing and shouting into the phone and cussing.  We gently asked him to take it out of the booth.
  • Network…Network…and Network some more

Same comments from above, apply to you as a vendor.  Get out of your booth and network as an attendee. 

#2 Keep a clean booth: 

This isn’t a dorm room.  So, get rid of the trash.  Sweep the floor or vacuum each day.  Trash cans go behind the curtain.  Unless you are the only person working the booth, leave the booth to eat.  Booths are your store front.  You can eat at a nearby table area.  While this may sound overly particular, you wouldn’t want the grocery checkout person to be eating a Big Mac while checking your groceries? 

          #3 Get others from your company to the booth

Salespeople are the primary workforce at a booth and rightfully so.  However, this is a great opportunity for others in your company to experience the industry and understand the market better.  They will get to see facets of the market they may never get a chance to see: competition, technology, and other vendors.  Most importantly, they get a first-hand perspective on customers.  I’m referring to those in marketing, technical/research and managers in your main office.  I’m also referring to local production and administrative staff:  drivers, warehouse employees, production managers, customer service people and even accounting folks!

Send them an invite or personally ask them to attend.  Make it easy and fun for them.  They may even like it and want to come back.  Make sure to take them on a tour of the show.  Remember, they don’t typically see this many people in the industry in this environment.  Be a good tour guide for them. 

#4 Differentiate: 

In a sea of booths, we all look the same, sound the same and are ultimately forgettable.  So, every effort should be made to differentiate to stand out and be remembered.

  • Educate as much as sell. If every booth is trying to hard sell with only products on display, consider ways you can educate.
  • Go retro with printed material and live displays. I know the trend is to create digital display material, videos that attendees can watch, capture emails and send everything electronic etc.  If the goal is to differentiate, try to bring in as many real-world examples as possible.  One of the more interesting displays at a vet booth was a row of kidney stones removed from various animals.
  • Display why you are better. Remember, attendees are going booth to booth.  After a day, their minds are numb with all the discussions, demonstrations, and presentations.  Make it easy to remember why they should buy from you.  For example, if you build stronger metal cowlings on your equipment, then display broken cowlings from the competition alongside your stronger cowling. 
  • Offer a tour of your facility if nearby. This could be after the show or maybe even during if they are leaving early.  Call your operations manager and let them know you have a tour coming through.
  • Many booths implement games or fun activities. I have never been a big fan, but I do see attendees engaging with them.  A raffle item is always a great way to draw people to your booth.  These don’t really differentiate, but they do get attendees to stop and stay a little longer.

As we enter the heavy trade show season, it’s exciting to be back in person as well as virtual options for some.  Take a few minutes and remember the high cost and effort it took to bring this event together for you and your company.  Take every advantage of the opportunity and hope to see you there!

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