Solid Waste & Recycling


“Opinion” At the Show: Winning at Trade Shows


This article is sponsored by: Waste & Recycling Expo Canada / Municipal Equipment Expo Canada 

Ready to succeed at trade shows? Having a clear plan can amp up the return you get on the time and money you put into it.

First and most important—planning and preparation. Before hitting the show floor, find out who will be there and decide who you are going to meet. Don’t overlook social gatherings and speaker presentations. Both are great venues for making new contacts. Meeting other exhibitors, including your competition, can eventually yield benefits.

If you do plan to exhibit, you’ll incur some costs to create a booth and to rent floor space. Some companies may be inclined to try to cut corners here. This is generally not advisable. You need to break through trade show noise and make your booth inviting to most people. You also want to frame your business, and message, in high-impact memorable style.

You’ll want people to come into your booth and engage. So running a table across the front of your show space, for example, probably isn’t the best idea. Give them a reason to step inside and meet you. A video or interactive display can be effective. Be warm, welcoming, and friendly.

Positioning can also contribute to success. Main aisles, entrances (without being too close to the entrance), ends of rows, and corner spaces to attract traffic from intersecting aisles are all highly-desirable locations. Also seek out locations that are two or three booths up the main entrance aisle. Being close to seminar locations and food services also works.

According to Scott Ginsberg, author, speaker, and the creator of, an online training network that teaches approachability, you “should see other people as an opportunity to make friends, to deliver value, to learn something. If they are an opportunity to sell, to get a referral, or to give a business card to, that’s not the right attitude. I think you need to position yourself as a resource,” Ginsberg says. “I’m a firm believer in physically bringing something to give to people.”

It’s not about logo-bearing erasers and water bottles. Ginsberg is talking about a copy of an article you wrote or clipped out, a list of your favourite books, or something that’s relevant to the event—something of value.

Follow up, follow up, follow up: Why spend the time and money at a trade show if you don’t have a plan to follow up with your contacts? Ginsberg has a few tips to make follow up more productive.

The key is to give value and not expect anything in return, he says. Demonstrate you listened to the person you’re following up with. Send them an email saying it was nice to meet them and reference the conversation you had at the event. Then, offer a link or a resource, as opposed to saying, “Hey, now you can refer me,” he says.

Find out if the people you’ve met would be interested in receiving your newsletter or if they’d like to check out your blog. You could do this at the event or in follow-up. Providing the link to your blog from your email signature is one way to subtly let them know you have one.

Or you could email a reference to a blog post that is relevant to the person you’re sending it to. For example, after a speaking gig in South Dakota, Ginsberg went to a Mexican restaurant with a client and some friends. He blogged about the restaurant and included his client in the blog. Then he emailed the post to his client. “Because she was part of the story, she ended up emailing it to people she knows,” Ginsberg says.

If you’re well-organized, make new friends, and follow up after the show you efforts will be rewarded in the end.

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