Part 1: How to Be a Tradeshow Rock Star


Do you ever wish you had a free success kit on how to ace tradeshows?

They’re obviously an important aspect of our industry, but do we truly know how to get the most value from attending a promotional products event? Aside from the usual, “You get to meet with potential business partners, so come prepared” most of the information out there points to aphorisms, with no applicable advice to offer. 

With this in mind, I thought I’d do a series of three blog posts with an easy-to-follow outline of what you should do before the show, during the show, and even after you’ve kicked your shoes off – there is still work to be done after the show.  This isn’t a compilation of more tips, rather something relatively tangible that can be your go-to guide before attending an industry event, tradeshow, or conference.

In this post, we will cover the basics of what to do before the show….

Discover your “why”

We attend industry events out of necessity for our bottom line, in hopes that the next interaction can bring us one step closer to hitting the jackpot. And in search for that lucky break, we miss one crucial step in the whole ordeal – preparation. Do you know why you’re attending? Believe it or not, your reasons may be entirely different from your buddy-distributor next door. And your reasons should be different because your goals set you apart in our competitive environment.

Are you looking to expand your business to include new services, like embroidery or screen printing?

Are you interested in employing a new business solution to manage your time more efficiently?

Are you looking for tips on ways to lock in your current clients? 

Outline your top objectives before the show and coordinate a plan to set all your ideas in motion. The more descriptive you can be in the preparation stage, the quicker you can get the ball rolling and achieve all your goals. And as an added bonus, you won’t waste any time as soon as you set foot on the show floor. You’re a person on a mission, and your presence is vital.

Learn your surroundings

When you don’t know where you are going, or how you are going to get there, it’s hard to imagine that you will actually reach your desired destination. As with any idea, the goals you have for your business must be supported by a clearly defined plan of how you’re going to succeed. And thankfully, with tradeshows, we have all the information right at our fingertips. 

Almost every tradeshow offers a floor map ahead of time, giving you a chance to plan your walk-through route before the show. And if you want to take your arrangement a step further, you can elicit some help from technology, by installing SAGE Mobile on your mobile device. The Tradeshows module within this handy app will offer you a smooth ride through the winding patterns of supplier lines, and will even keep track of all your exhibitor communication to reference at a later time!

Link up beforehand 

Nobody likes spending 10 hours on foot while networking and mingling with potential opportunities. One way you can cut that time in half is by connecting with your top companies of interest before the show. Pick a few individuals or companies you know will help you reach your critical business needs, make it your goal to meet with them, and drop them a quick note prior to the event. For example, I know that Bob’s Spinners is an up-and-coming supplier in the market that sells top-of-the line fidget spinners. Naturally, I want to establish a relationship with a company that has plenty of stock of such a popular product. So I send this to Bob:

“Dear Bob,

I noticed that you will be exhibiting at The PPAI Expo

I would like to get in touch with you one-on-one to learn about your product offering.

Would you be available at 11:00 am for a quick meeting during the show?

I look forward to hearing from you.               


Your Signature”

In doing so, you can clearly express your interest, and get all your questions answered without being pressured into a purchase or an immediate partnership.

Invite your clients

How often do you get to have face-to-face contact with your clients? Do you even know what they look like, or do you set them apart merely by their annual bulk orders? We live in the age of the consumer, where we are always one meaningful interaction away from closing a deal. It’s no surprise that most sales are locked in over spontaneous cocktail hours, following a human conversation that spans a myriad of topics, most of which are in no way related to business.

That is why it’s so important to invite your clients to industry events whenever possible. Half the effort in closing a deal is understanding your client, and the best way to do that is to talk to them in person. So look up your show of choice and see if you’re allowed to register your clients and bring them with you. 

“You will never see eye-to-eye if you never meet face-to-face.”

– Warren Buffett

You can continue your quest to tradeshow stardom by checking in with our post on what to do during the show.

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