Trade Shows / 05.31.23 / By Chase Howells

The Show Before The Show

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Oftentimes when people start thinking about exhibiting at a trade show or conference, they spend most of their time focusing on what is happening at the event. Things like what the exhibit should look like, what will go on in the space, who is going to work the booth, hotels, flights, off-site engagements, etc. But when anyone attends an event they look to maximize their time by ensuring they visit a list of booths. They may stray from the list here or there, but in their heads it is always, “how do I see X, Y, Z companies before this show ends” and they structure how they walk the floor around this. Because of this, I am of the belief that shows are won in the weeks leading up to the event itself. Getting on an attendee’s list of must-visit booths, the specific companies that they are going to be heading for as soon as they hit the show floor. Attendees have to be thinking about these companies before the event ever starts, therefore the work has to be done before the show ever starts. What can exhibitors do to get on this list?

Targeted Marketing

I lead with this because it is the most effective way to drive attendance. This would mean developing a clever, on-brand promotion to bring attendees to the space and getting their attention ahead of the show. For instance, what if you sent your most important 5 prospects (4) ticket vouchers each to a Taylor Swift concert (since those are better than cash, a lot of cash…) to be redeemed at your space. And FedEx them 2-4 weeks ahead of the show in a nice, branded box that explains the promotion inside. There’s a pretty good chance they’re going to put you on the list!


Sponsorship is a way to make your brand a part of the brand of the show. Title sponsor or otherwise, you’re going to get your logo plastered on all materials related to the event pre, during and post-show. We’ve also used this to leverage clever bag inserts that give you a last-second chance to breakthrough to being list-worthy.

Pre-Show Campaigns

Maybe it doesn’t make sense to shell out for the targeted approach above, or you’re just looking to get a wide swath. This just means you’re going to put together marketing efforts like email campaigns, LinkedIn posts, email signature notes, etc. to build hype around a specific event. This is a method that can standalone or be used in conjunction with a sponsorship.

Sales People

“Sales people” is often used like a four-letter word with the marketing teams I deal with, but hey, these are the face of the brand to the customers. Work with them to call/text/email the customers they want to attend the event and visit the booth space. Marketing will drive the new prospect pipeline to the booth and sales can bring current clients and prospects. You’ll want your company to be on the list for both groups!

Obviously, a big part of our business is around what happens on the showfloor. We like creative booths, fun giveaways, and new technologies, but we know that all of those are best tied-in with pre-show efforts. We have a number of tools available to help you get your company on the list including a simple consultation and brainstorm on goals, prospects and your brand. This is what our tagline “strategically applied imagination” is all about! Please reach out if this is something you’re interested in exploring further with us!

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay