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7 Tips for New Trade Show Exhibitors

Do you have new products? Are you thinking about exhibiting at a trade show? It can be a big undertaking, but it’s worth it! As a trade-show consultant and judge, I’ve witnessed amazing success stories come out of mere 10x10’ exhibitor spaces. Not to mention, The Grommet team attends several trade shows each year looking to connect with potential Grommet partners. A lot of magic can happen at a show!

Of course, not all companies have to exhibit at a trade show to become successful, but I advise exhibiting at least one time. You will receive direct feedback from buyers and distributors which can be priceless. Trade shows are also a great way to gain press coverage which is vital for any new business.

Trade Show Tips

Here are a few tips I’ve shared over the years with new trade show exhibitors (I hope they help you as well):

1. Attend the show the year before you exhibit.

Go as a guest and walk the show floor and be sure to talk to people.  Find one of the dozens of people sitting down, looking bored, in the big booths. They will give you the scoop on how the show has done over the years. Ask if they think this Fall Show is better than the Spring Show, for example. On the last day of the event visit the tiny booth in the far corner of the show floor. They will tell you how they value the show.

2. Take Advantage of the New Product Showcase

This is an un-manned area that the show management sets up for vendors to display their products. You do not stand here the entire time (don't worry, your products will not be stolen. There are New Product Showcase security guards). This is an additional expense, but in my opinion well worth it. I even recommend buying 2-3 spots if you can. This is where the press and buyers go to focus on finding the newest hottest products. Hint: have a teammate from your booth staff go to your New Product section to tidy it up every hour.

3. Understand the Costs and What to Budget For

How much should you budget for your first booth? Local shows: $500-$1,000. National trade shows: $8,000-25,000. What should you rent from the show management: lighting, cushioned floor mats, and digital scanner for badges. What should you have in your booth: 3 teammates (staff) wearing matching collared shirts and slacks, 2 chairs, and a tall kiosk table (with hidden storage for your purse, press kits or supplies).  What you don’t need to spend money on: ads in the “daily” trade show publication, give-away pens, candy, and tote bags.

4. Impress the Press

Every day bring media kits to leave in the press room. Make five VIP press bags and keep them in your booth under the table. When you meet a valued member of the press give them a VIP bag. If they do not come by your booth, go find them. Seriously. Walk the show floor and find them or stand outside the press room and introduce yourself. Invite them to your booth. After the show, chose ten press contacts you met and email them a pre-written article they can edit and publish. Individualize the article for each media audience. Include three high-res photos from the show floor.

5. Mingle and Network as Much as You Can

Go to every breakfast and social event. Stay until the very end of the show and chat with booths as they clean up. Offer to help. LinkedIn and email are good ways to communicate when you are in your work office, but face-to-face connections always rule.  This is your time to make serious connections, after all that's what you're there for right?

 6.  Look for Way to Save on Costs

Exhibiting at a trade show is expensive but there are a few ways that you can strategically  save money.

  • You do not need to rent the corner 10x20’ booth near the show entrance. Buyers and press know to visit the small 10x10’ booths around the show floor perimeter.
  • Rent a professional booth instead of paying for a permanent structure. Example: Classic Exhibits
  • Ask for booth space at the last minute and negotiate with show management.
  • Share a booth with another vendor.
  • Subscribe (free) to www.ExhibitorMagazine.com for more tips
7. Last, but not Least, Have a Back-Up Plan

A back up plan is key in case your booth and samples do not arrive in time (this can happen). Bring a few product samples in your carry-on luggage, have high-res photos of your products on a thumb-drive and always carry your business cards with you.

 We hope that your first trade show is a successful one! Do you have a new product that we should know about? Be sure to leave a comment and submit it to our Citizens' Gallery! We're looking forward to learning about it. Who knows, we just might bump into your at the next trade show!


  • Harry Says:

    Thanks for the tips Ericka.

  • Michael Lee Says:

    At work, we have been thinking about getting more involved in trade shows. Thank you for your advice that we should attend the trade show before we take part in it. I think that this would help to know what whats and doesn't at the show and what to prepare for.

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