Craig M Dick

Agriculture | Marketing | Innovation

Tradeshows are the Worst

I don’t like tradeshows!Tradeshows are the Worst

I attend a lot of them, but I don’t like them.

Tradeshows are like some kind of deranged speed dating game for business.

Most tradeshows have more exhibitors than attendees could ever hope to visit, so the attendees are in hurry. And, on the other side, there are more attendees than company representatives can talk to, so the sales reps are always looking past the possible customer in front of them to the next one waiting to talk.

This results in a short conversation with the hope of a follow up sometime in the future – which almost never happens. Most sales people don’t follow up with leads after a trade show, if they even record them at all.

So, if trade shows really are a giant waste of time, why do we keep doing them?


Tradeshows are about connecting to your prospects/attendees on neutral ground. The better shows understand this and work to facilitate that. However, if you want to get the most out of a tradeshow you can’t rely on the show management to make that happen. You must take control of building connection with attendees.

Connection is a basic emotional need. And despite the huge efforts we put into presenting research and facts, we know that almost all purchasing decisions are made emotionally.

People buy from people they like. People they trust. People who get them.

This is why it is so important to find common interest with the show attendees. But to do this you have to get them to stop by the booth.

Attendees/prospects who don’t know what you do, why you do it, or are confused by you or your product will not stop.

Meeting attendees is just like making friends. Trouble is, in adult life it just doesn’t work to walk up to someone and say, “Want to be my friend?” But this is what most people try to do at a tradeshow. And it’s why most attendees refuse to make eye contact with people in booths. Prospects need lots of exposure to you and your company and products before they will be comfortable stopping at your booth.

The best marketing facilitates a connection with the attendees/prospects. To do this quickly in a tradeshow atmosphere, you must pre-market.

Pre-marketing begins with ensuring your company/product website clearly states what it is you (or your products) can do for customers, and the added value your company or products can provide to them.

Next in the show guide, make sure the description of your company and products match the message that appears on your website. Finally, depending on the show, send customers and prospects a mailer and/or email telling them why they need to come by your booth and what is in it for them if they do. Doing this properly doubles – or even quadruples –  your exposure to the attendee, before the tradeshow even starts. This is because they are now aware of you, they know you’ll be at the show, and they know what to expect when they stop by your booth.

Prepare for the show by taking the time to make sure your display is unique and  matches your website’s look. It must clearly identify your company and state what you do and the value you can bring to the customer. You’ve invested in pre-marketing to boost interest in your product, you don’t want the attendee to show up to your booth and be disappointed. You only have milliseconds for attendees to be attracted by your booth.

Once the customer or prospect has stopped, take the time to nurture the relationship. This requires adequate staffing at your booth, meaning that you have enough of your people to handle the flow of show attendees, and that these people are properly trained.

Now that the show attendees have stopped to visit, engage with them solely to build connection. To do this:

  • Be genuine
  • Pay attention
  • Ask questions
  • Provide help
  • Be happy
  • Ask follow-up questions
  • Be unforgettable

If a connection is made, make sure the attendee knows you will follow up with them after the tradeshow. Write down the best way and time to contact them. Then be sure you do it.

You did all that work for the tradeshow, but proper follow-up is where it pays off.  I recommend this article from Spear Marketing for a follow-up campaign.

My key take-a-ways are;

  • Most tradeshow leads are ignored by sales (I have been guilty of this).
  • Follow up first with an email that has a clear call to action. Don’t ever ask people to learn more. They hate that. Invite them to do a demo, download a white paper or watch a video.
  • Have a plan for on-going follow-up.

By taking the time to prepare a proper tradeshow marketing plan, you can increase your exposure and engagement to the attendee by 4-8 times.

Proper engagement and proper connection is the way to grow your sales.


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  1. This is all so true Craig! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Awesome article! You make some great points. Will definitely read this article again.

  3. Great thoughts & I agree with everything you covered, Craig.

    One added tool that has produced more new customers & given us great opportunities to connect with our existing customers is a direct mail postcard going out to both existing customers & prospective customers that fit our “best customer profile” … These people come to the show looking for our booth & keeps us busy even on a slow day.

    We’re also trying something new this fall .. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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