How to Make the Most of Trade Shows

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the giant Consumer Electronics Show each year, says the key value of exhibiting at trade shows lies in face-to-face business interactions. He gives these tips for making the most of shows:

1. Invest money and time in pre-show promotion.

2. Arrange appointments during show hours and at night.

3. Bring motivated, educated staff members who want to be there—and look like they do.

4. Read the exhibitor manual to familiarize yourself with guidelines and opportunities.

5. Develop a relationship with show managers. Tell them what you’ve done and ask what other opportunities you should tap (these might include giving a talk as part of the show’s educational content). Then evaluate all possibilities, opting into those with the best payoff potential.

6. Familiarize yourself with the venue—booth locations of competitors and potential partners, meeting spaces, etc. This benefits you in two ways: You become a better resource to visitors to your booth who may need help navigating the show, and you’re forced to operate outside of your silo and engage beyond your booth.

7. Insist on great service from show management.

8. Don’t let leads wither: Follow up and then follow up some more.

9. Plan and do as much as possible in advance so you can use your time at the show to network and close deals.

Learn more about how to maximize your time at trade shows to see your exposure and profits grow.


Mikal E. Belicove is a magazine columnist, book author, and blogger who writes about about the intersection of high-tech and entrepreneurship. Mikal serves on South by Southwest’s (SXSW) Accelerator Advisory Board, develops handcrafted marketing communications campaigns for a select group of companies and brands, and serves on the Board of Trustees at Keystone College (La Plume, Penn.). For more information, visit  

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