Make 2023 the year you conquer the trade show scene by being deliberate and strategic with your prep work. Download this trade show checklist for a list of things to remember.

  • Spend time planning your booth if you want to stand out in the crowd and make a memorable impression.
  • Handouts like promotional swag and informational brochures add a tangible element to increase your odds of being remembered.
  • Don’t make the mistake of focusing only on the show itself: Follow a marketing plan and keep your website up-to-date so you can nurture leads into client/customer conversions.

Need help? Get in touch with a trade show expert.

The full story:

With public events back in full swing, 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for in-person trade shows. Look no further than the 2023 Consumer Electronics Showcase – which drew tens of thousands of live attendees – for proof that the game is officially back on. For anyone with an eye for marketing, this can only mean one thing: It’s time to break out the swag, shine up that elevator pitch and get ready to rub elbows with prospective customers and clients.

Getting ready for a trade show can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to make your life easier. Below are four things to consider when planning a successful exhibit. Then download our handy Trade Show Checklist to take even more of the guesswork out of being prepared.

For now, check out these four tips for making your next trade show a hit.

1. Your trade show booth is your first impression.

Inside the exhibit hall, you’ll be competing with dozens of booths for the crowd’s attention. But with a little up-front time and investment, you can make sure your station is ready to draw a crowd.

Planning your first show? It’s a good idea to become familiar with the elements that make up a typical booth or exhibit, so you can find ways to make them work with your imagination and budget. Backdrops, banners, pop-up displays and signage are all go-to standards, but you’ll find even more clever ideas here. If you’ve done trade shows in the past, 2023 – after a long hiatus – might be the right time to take inventory of your investment and decide whether any elements could use a refresh.

Need inspiration? Check out this exhibit we created for Nelnet. While no one would blame you for not going this big, it shows how different pieces can combine to create something that stands out.


I’d like help with my booth.

2. Come prepared with take-home materials.

You’ve invested in your booth. You’ve got a sales pitch that’ll knock their socks off. Your website and social media pages are up-to-date (more on that later). You’re feeling good about your chances of making an impression.

But, do you have enough business cards? What about copies of that annual report you released last quarter – the one that nailed your mission statement? Or maybe a batch of those brochures you forgot to have printed?

Often overlooked, physical take-home pieces are like a secret trade show weapon. It all goes back to retention: Think about the number of slogans, URLs and logos the average attendee will consume. At the end of the day, what portion of those will simply vanish, lost in the crowd noise? If you want to be remembered, strongly consider bringing along printed informational pieces; particularly those that convey who you are, what you’re about and how prospective customers or clients can get in touch.

3. Hook them with memorable swag.

Ok, now to the fun part. Swag (stuff we all get) has to be one of everyone’s favorite parts about visiting a trade show. In about an hour or two, you can return home with a new water bottle, reusable grocery bag, refrigerator magnets and a three-year supply of kitchen drawer pens.

Question though: What if swag didn’t have to be so typical? What if instead of just being “free stuff,” it could be stuff that got people excited about doing business with you? Stuff that said more about your organization than your logo can by itself? How about a fuzzy winter hat that says, “We’re the kind of people that care whether your ears are warm.” A bright and colorful mug that says, “Be our coffee date?” Or a bubble gun that says, “We’re serious, but we also know how to have fun?”

Whether your budget is large or small, you’d be surprised by all the cool things you can put your logo or slogan on without having to break the bank. And that investment might go a long way to make your organization the one they remember when they return to the office with their trade show treasures.

4. Prepare to keep them engaged once the show is over.

You spent all that time and energy making a great first impression. Once you’ve set yourself up for success, it’s time to follow through – and follow up.

Want to convert your hard-won contacts into clients and customers? Consider this food for thought:

Do you have a marketing outreach plan?

It’s easy to spend so much time focusing on a powerful first impression that we neglect something equally as important: staying in touch. Remember, people grow fond of what they see frequently; in psychology, this is called the mere exposure effect. Marketing tactics that harness the power of frequency – like regular social media updates or blog posts, well-timed email campaigns and printed direct mailers – are tools that will help you establish a memorable presence and cultivate a relationship over time. Just be careful not to overdo it; here’s where a research-backed strategy (or help from an expert) can come in handy.

Is your website polished and ready?

Long after the lights have dimmed and the show floor has been swept of popcorn and balloons, your website (and social media pages) will be making a new first impression on the prospective customers and clients you sent home with your business card.

Your site is not only the visual embodiment of your organization, it’s the number one source of info for anyone who wants to know more about you – as well as a digital gateway for business transactions. A quick website polish before your next trade show might be the best investment your organization makes all year when it comes to sheer ROI. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is your site more “AOL” than 2023? If it’s been a while since your last visual/functionality refresh, then it might be time to speak to a professional who can make it easy and affordable.
  • Is your basic contact and personnel information up-to-date? Are there photos and contact info for the staff who attended the trade show to create familiarity? (think back to the exposure effect).
  • Are you using your best photos and the latest copy of your logo? Are your photos high-quality, with images of people and faces, or are they blurry and lifeless?
  • Does your site branding echo what you presented to your audience at the trade show? (If not, they’ll likely be confused.)
  • Are there spelling and grammar errors in your copy? Does it tell a story and relay your value or achievements?
  • Does your site contain calls to action that drive people where you want them to go? This could be your Facebook page, a donations page, a product catalog, etc.

By spending a minimal amount of time and resources to bring your site up to speed, you can greatly increase your chance of converting the new clicks you earned at the trade show into lifelong customers or clients.

Let’s talk about my website