Vistaprint’s guide to a successful trade show

Whether you’re attending an international industry event or a smaller, local one, trade shows can play a major role in growing your small business.

Besides being an ideal place to meet new customers, trade shows are also the perfect venue for discovering trends in your field, developing partnerships and even seeing what the competition is up to!

Before you go

Make sure your marketing materials and signage align with the type of event you’re attending. For example, business-to-business events tend to require more polish than community trade fairs. A software consulting firm at an international expo would likely keep materials such as brochures and flyers organized in a presentation folder, while a pet grooming service at an event in a city park would thrive by handing out business cards, magnets, postcards and such.

  • If possible, schedule meetings and make appointments with potential customers and business partners ahead of the event.
  • Update your website and social media with information about your presence at the event. Don’t forget to include your booth number.
  • Consider making a special offer for attendees at the event, such as a one-time discount or similar coupon for products or services.

Be sure you have a “go bag” ready with everything that can help you make the event easier.

During the trade show

Make time to take care of both yourself and your booth. Going to bed early and getting a good night’s rest does more than make your body and mind ready for the event – it also gives you time to hit the floor early every day and get your booth into shape.

  • Exhibiting with a group? Make sure that everyone works from a checklist and has assigned tasks each day.
  • Use a fishbowl to collect business cards for a giveaway and follow up with those leads after the event.
  • Learn where everything is before the event starts. Being able to point out the phone charging stations and restrooms makes a great impression on potential customers.
  • Put your phone down. It could make visitors think you’re bored and idle or busy and unapproachable.
  • Take time to check out what others are doing to have a successful event, especially competitors.

To create a long-lasting connection, offer new prospects something to remember you by. Customized giveaways like tote bags or pens are something that they can use while keeping you top of mind.

Finally, make sure that your trade show booth is well-stocked with marketing materials and promotional products that help potential customers see clearly what your business offers.


Make sure you follow up with any leads gathered at the event as quickly as possible. Do your best to contact them within 48 hours via email or, even better, follow up on that email with a personal note on a customized, event-themed postcard.

Most importantly, think about what you learned and what you could have done better, and then apply these learnings to the next event. The most successful trade show veterans refine their techniques with every event and try new things to get the most out of their trade show booths.