Trade Show Guide: 5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know


Trade shows are a fantastic platform for entrepreneurs to help grow their business and improve personal branding. Businesses with an exhibit at a trade show can grow their brands quickly due to accessible networking with niche leaders. They can also engage show attendees with an informative and eye-catching booth, which often results in leads.

Entrepreneurs attending their first trade show may feel intimidated initially – and that’s entirely normal. Success at a trade show can lift a business from obscurity to being buzzed-about, so the potential reward may appear daunting. But there’s no need to fear. With the five tips below and strong knowledge of how to take advantage of the excellent business-growing platform, entrepreneurs will feel confident when walking into their trade show.


Create Some Conversation Starters

When hosting a booth, you’ll encounter many tentative passersby who will glance at your booth, unsure of whether to initiate conversation. This is where a conversation starter will come in handy – and may even result in a lead. They can transform a tentative interest into a full-blown lead.

If you notice someone checking out the booth, make eye contact and strike up a relevant conversation. Ideally, it can start with small talk and asking simple questions such as:

  • Where are you from?
  • Do you know what [topic] is?

Then you can advance into a more conversational flow, with questions like this: “What is your biggest concern or question about [topic]?”

Mix some more generic questions with creative ones, and then add some personality to engage passersby and hopefully turn them into leads.


Be Wary of Competitors

You will be surrounded by a plethora of competitors to your business when at a trade show. Some of them are friendly and well-meaning, while others are looking for any opportunity to steal your personal brand’s clever marketing angle or hook.

Rather than judge characters on a per-person basis, be wary of all competitors. Act politely and engage in small talk, but don’t pitch your business or reveal anything substantial. They could scoop up your leads and turn them into theirs.


Create Cheat Sheets

Organization is essential to a successful trade show. When pitching what makes your business special, there should be some essential tidbits that all potential leads should know about. Information like this can be stored conveniently on a cheat sheet. This can be on index cards, a piece of paper, or anything that is readily accessible and can be added to throughout the event.

Some cheat sheet reminders could include “make eye contact when initiating conversation” including some of the aforementioned conversation starters, or reminders of what not to do, such as the following:

  • Crossing your arms (it appears dismissive)
  • Looking overly busy at the booth (which may prompt interested passersby to become wary of disturbing you)

Remind yourself of what to do and what not to do, and you’ll be on your way to a successful trade show.


Pay for Booth Location, If Possible

It will cost extra to secure a lucrative booth location, but it very well could be worth it in the long-run because it helps to secure leads. Most trade show locations sell out of their best locations fast, so try to secure your most ideal location as soon as possible.

Aim for locations that are not congested but are still expected to yield high traffic. More is not always better in this regard, since too many attendees near your booth can make it difficult for meaningful one-on-one conversations.

Also steer clear of being placed next to any type of PA system. The venue should happily provide details, like where the PA system is located, to accommodate businesses willing to spend extra for prime booth real estate.


Emphasize Bright Colors and Approachability

When designing your booth, you should aim for a bright color scheme, in addition to a banner or sign that shows your business’ message. A visual-friendly booth design will attract customers on appearance alone, creating opportunities for you to converse and capture leads. There are many options online for bright booth designs. For example, APG Exhibits offers hybrid pro modular displays and other designs that will stand out.

Approachability is also key. Avoid crossing your arms or appearing busy. Instead, smile and wear your name tag proudly, showing full confidence and a willingness to talk about your business while listening to questions and concerns from others. If there is work to be done at the booth, ensure that other staff are visibly available and accommodating.


The five tips above provide a great primer for entrepreneurs attending their first trade show. Follow the advice to find your branding elevated significantly in the weeks and months after a trade show.