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Tips for Attending Small Trade Shows

If there’s an upcoming trade show in your area that will be small, you may be on the fence about attending. However, it’s important to remember if the right people are coming to the trade show, your attendance could be just as worthwhile as going to a large show. Here are some suggestions for attending small trade shows that can help you make a big impression.

Be Professional

Be just as professional at a small trade show as you would at a large one. Attendees deserve that and will likely remember your customer service after the trade show is over. Make sure your staff is dressed well, show up on time and create professional promotion items for attendees to ensure they have an authentic trade show experience.

Choose the Right Staff

Select the right staff for a small trade show. Choose individuals who aren’t afraid to come from behind the trade show exhibit and greet attendees. At larger trade shows, it can be easier to hide behind the table and simply smile and nod at the attendees as they pass by. You need team members who enjoy engaging with others and are knowledgeable about your services and products in case attendees have questions. A smaller, more intimate environment can also increase the chances you’ll learn more about other companies attending the trade show and make some significant connections.

Select the Right Exhibit

If the trade show is small, there’s a good chance you won’t have a lot of space for your trade show exhibit. Choose materials that will showcase the best parts of your business without taking up too much room. A small trade show is a great time to use bright colors and appealing designs for signage since these features will make you stand out even when you have limited space. If you normally bring items, such as a raffle table or a popcorn machine, to attract guests, it may be best to swap this out for a small podium with a tablet, prompting attendees to enter their contact information for a chance to win prizes and stay up to date on your promotions and sales. Of course, some free samples on your trade show table wouldn’t hurt, either.

Take Advantage of Networking

Finally, remember a small trade show is a perfect time to network with other business owners and attendees. You’ll likely have more time to connect with people at the trade show. And, if you’re not a fan of huge crowds, you’ll probably feel more at ease engaging in professional conversation. Be sure to have your business cards and contact information readily available at your trade show booth and have some of your cards on hand so you can give them to attendees and encourage them to keep in touch with you. Just because the trade show venue is small doesn’t mean you can’t find the ideal business to partner with or make connections with people who will turn into long-term customers who will help to move your business forward.

Should You Hire a Separate Trade Show Staff?

Now that you and your team are planning for another successful trade show, you likely know a bit more about your staffing needs and what it will take to appeal to attendees while still running your company efficiently. This may lead you to wonder whether you should hire a staff specifically for the trade show. There are several things to consider if you think a trade show staff is best for your company, and it’s best to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page so your next trade show will be organized and effective.

How Often Do You Attend Trade Shows?

If you have a trade show on your calendar every month or so, it may be a good idea to hire a separate trade show staff. This will allow you to continue business at your company’s actual location while your trade show staff talks to attendees and represents your business. A trade show staff is a great way to gain new customers while retaining the clients you already have. You won’t be short-staffed at the office, and you’ll have a staff of people at the trade show who can make a good impression on potential customers. However, if you only attend trade shows once or twice a year, it’s probably best to inform your customers about the show a week or two in advance so you can bring your staff with you, since training a new group of people you’ll only need every once in a while may not be practical.

How Elaborate Are Your Exhibits?

If your trade show booth is very large and your exhibit has several parts to it, a trade show staff may be a good idea. The more hands you have on deck, the easier it will be to set up the exhibit. You’ll also have people there to greet customers and answer questions about your products. And, if each person has a specific job to do, no one will feel overwhelmed or anxious when more attendees start to show up. A trade show staff will also come in handy if you have a raffle or other parts of your exhibit that involve a raffle or prizes for attendees. This way, one or two staff members can work the raffle while others greet attendees and answer questions.

Do You Have Time/Money to Train a New Staff?

Finally, after you’ve determined the design for your trade show exhibit and you know which information you want to convey to attendees, you’ll need to make sure you have the time and money to train a new staff. It may take hours or days to ensure the new staff is properly trained, and this could affect your ability to interact with customers and make sales. Make sure the effort that goes into hiring a trade show staff is worth it for your business based on customer traffic (online and in person), the amount of trade shows you attend, and the overall nature of your business. Keeping these factors in mind the next time you prepare for a trade show could make for a more worthwhile trade show.

Learning a New Language for Trade Shows

If you have several international clients, would like to gain more international exposure or recognize the need to be culturally diverse when it comes to communication, you may be considering learning a new language. You can make your trade show booth even more appealing when you have team members who speak the language of the customers you want to appeal to. And, of course, the more people on your staff who speak a foreign language, the more your company will be community-centered and open-minded. Here are some suggestions for learning a new language for your next trade show.

Take It Slow

Remember to pace yourself when you’re learning a new language. Although this may be one of the trade show ideas that will take a little more of your attention and focus, remember this is an important part of trade show prep and this skill will help you in the future of your business as well. Learn a few key phrases that will help to break the ice when attendees come to your booth and be sure to learn how to say things, such as “Thank you”; “Nice to meet you”; or “We’re here to help.” You may not be fluent in a new language before your next trade show, but phrases that let customers know that you’re intent on providing great service will go a long way.

Practice with Team Members

Before you get to the trade show booth, practice the language you’re learning with your team members. If you and your employees get comfortable talking to each other in a new language, it will be easier for you to communicate with trade show attendees. When more than one team member is focused on learning the language, this sends a great impression to your customers and shows your business is committed to being culturally aware. It’s also a good idea to learn more than one language based on where your business is located, and which individuals attend trade shows for your industry often. For instance, if you work in a community where there is a large Hispanic population, it’s best to learn Spanish. If you find that people of Indian descent attend your industry’s trade shows most often, learning Hindi is a good idea.

Present Appropriate Marketing Materials

Make the right changes to your promo materials at your trade show exhibit to show customers you are committed to relating to them. You may need to work with a translator who can accurately transform your marketing copy so you can maintain the same level of professionalism as with your English documents. It may also be necessary to provide new images that are culturally diverse and will appeal to a larger demographic.

Ask for Feedback

Finally, don’t forget to ask for feedback as you learn a new language. If you have a team member who is a native speaker, check in with him or her often to guarantee you’re phrasing things correctly. You can also check with your customers to see how you’re doing and ask them for new and innovative ideas when it comes to incorporating more than one language into your business and trade show communication.

Making a Creative Trade Show Swag Bag

The swag bag is an extremely effective marketing tool if you use it correctly. The items you decide to put in your bag set the tone for the ways customers view your business. They may  even prompt trade show attendees to do regular business with you after the trade show is over. As you’re organizing your trade show booth, make sure that you’re putting as much effort into your swag bags so you can add visual appeal to your exhibit while increasing brand recognition and moving your company forward by making the right connections at the trade show.


Clothing items, such as T-shirts, socks, and windbreakers that match your tradeshow exhibit design, are great ways to guarantee attendees regularly see your logo and slogan after the trade show. Choose clothing that is made from quality materials can be worn for a longer period, and items that are comfortable to wear will likely increase the chances that trade show attendees will think of your company first when they need a product or service that you provide.

Practical Items

The swag bags at your trade show booth should be filled with items that people have a daily use for. If you’re a software or tech company, a USB charger or mousepad will make a great swag bag gift because you can include your logo and company colors on an item that customers will likely use every day. If you sell sports-related or health items, a water bottle with your logo is a practical gift. Be sure to decorate these items in a way that will continue to get the attention of potential clients and use quality materials so that your swag bag items will last a long time. This also indicates that you’re committed to giving the best to your customers and pride yourself on offering great service.


Accessories, such as hats or sunglasses, can make great swag bag gifts if your company is known for fashion or you sell items that are popular in the spring and summer months. Choose a more refined version of your logo for these items to make the accessories especially fashionable and increase the chances that attendees will wear the items often.

The Actual Bag

The actual bag is another creative swag idea that you can offer at your trade show booth. Design a bag that will catch the attention of attendees right away. For instance, you can customize a duffel bag or backpack to give away, instead of simply using a gift bag to fill with promotional goodies. Use a sturdy material, such as faux leather, cotton or burlap, for your bags, and include your logo on the bag in a metallic shade to make the item look especially sophisticated. Of course, you can also fill the bag with small items, such as your business cards and contact information, coupons that can be used online, or a small edible item and beverage that attendees can enjoy while they browse the rest of the trade show.

How to Have a Virtual Trade Show

Live streaming has become increasingly popular in business these days. In some cases, virtual or online services that allow company owners and employees to speak with clients can make a business more appealing to a younger or technologically savvy demographic. The virtual trade show is also a way to market your business in an environmentally sound way. When you lower your carbon footprint and decrease the environmental impact that usually comes with a traditional trade show, you may get the attention of younger customers and those who are conscious about the environment. You’ll also get tax breaks for reducing the fuel costs associated with attended your trade show.

If you’re considering making your next trade show exhibit virtual, here are some important things to remember.

The Incentive of Low Cost

In most cases, trade shows are free, whether the show is live or virtual. Get in touch with the virtual trade show designer to do a walkthrough and view the booths so you’ll know how to advertise. You can also listen to clips of the product presentations and seminars or lectures for the trade show, so you can guarantee the audio is clear and can adjust the times for these aspects of the show as needed. If you find you need to change your marketing strategy to ensure you’ll get significant attendance, you can ask prominent figures in your field to speak at the trade show, send out virtual promotional packages and charge a small fee to attendees. This can help you to keep track of how many people are interested in the trade show and can assist you in putting together follow-up messages for attendees after the trade show.

Work with Other Businesses

You can generate leads by paying for a prime spot in a virtual trade show, or you can organize a virtual show and advertise the businesses that are participating in the show to promote the event and generate leads. Whether the show is live or virtual, you should make sure your trade show exhibit is near the main doorway of the venue. You can also partner with other companies to provide discounts and promotions that will appeal to attendees. This helps to bring attention to your business, as well as your partner’s company and sends the message you’re a community-minded organization, which can be appealing to trade show attendees.

Be Interactive

Finally, make sure that a representative from your company is logged onto the trade show site during all show hours so attendees can ask questions and get an answer in real time. You or your team member should also be at the trade show booth so you can reach out to attendees via instant message or greet them when they come to your table. Set up your booth so attendees can skim through your company profile once they approach your exhibit as well. Remember you should be friendly and engaging and exhibit great customer service even when you’re working online to make sure you continue to make a great impression.