100 Tips in 75 Minutes
Session given at IAEM Annual Meeting in December, 2002
- Saturate your drive-in market to capture "impulse"
- Do frequent surveys especially on hot topics to ensure your
perception of your show is in line with that of your attendees
- Don't be boring -- make your show a real event.
- Get everything in writing; good will and good intentions
net nothing in reality.
- Create an Exhibitor Advisory Committee of 10 to 20 of your
top exhibitors – include supporters and critics.
- Do solicit sponsorships from companies not eligible to exhibit.
- Take a risk each year/each show to showcase something new
and exciting within your industry.
- Have a mascot.
- Assume nothing.
- Create forums/sessions for your exhibitors to provide their
product information directly to attendees.
- Never require that a web site registrant obtain a password.
- Treat suppliers and contractors fairly.
- Wear red hats or another distinguishable component to your
- Reward/encourage your entire team before, during and after
- Exchange your attendee mailing lists for your exhibitors’
client lists to do co-op attendee promo mailings.
- Don’t mail guest passes for exhibitors.
- Mistakes are okay – hiding them is not.
- Have show management stand at the entrance saying "Welcome"
and "Thank you for coming."
- Understand, communicate and sell the value of your marketplace,
tradeshow and/or meeting to everyone.
- Expand services to your international attendees at your show.
- Hire effective sales people and teach them the trade show
- Post top 20 FAQ’s with answers on your show website.
- Practice "submission marketing" -- bombard your
prospects in every way possible.
- Understand the value proposition of your event.
- Don’t waste your money on high-priced keynote speakers.
- “Pay” qualified attendees to come to your show.
- Establish a year-round relationship and communication plan
with your exhibitors.
- Continue to aggressively market to registered attendees.
- Greet every attendee like they are the most important person
- Increase the value and ROI of exhibitors’ sponsorships.
- Compress your show floor – to increase traffic density.
- Develop onsite problem/resolution forms and have them signed
off by both sides.
- Spend whatever you need to make your show stand out -- big
name speakers, celebrity entertainers, etc.
- Understand the profit model for your event.
- Ask your CVBs, decorator and vendors to sponsor your exhibitor
reception and/or lounge.
- Make only “warm” telemarketing calls.
- Don’t badmouth your competition; you never know if
and when you will be working together.
- “Bribe” the most desirable attendees to come to
- Be inclusive, not exclusive, in marketing your event to your
industry’s associations and organizations.
- Six months out, organize a pre-show exhibitor briefing, site
tour and contractor meet-and-greet.
- Never use a complicated URL – keep your web site address
- Hold conference sessions in small, tight rooms to maintain
density so they appear to have SRO.
- Give attendees a significant free benefit for registering
far in advance.
- Do not think you can build it anywhere at anytime and they
- Publish your exhibitor target move-in schedule with a color-coded
- Consider co-locating with another show or conference that
also serves your market.
- Provide show partners with branding throughout the show and
recognize them for the content and attendees they bring.
- Charge more for booth space at the front of the hall.
- Stay alert to competitive moves and be open and flexible
to new ideas and ways of doing business.
- Court your industry’s trade publishers and involve
them in your show.
- Never give up on a sales prospect – exhibitors are
holding out till the very last minute.
- Use the pre-registered media list to set appointments in
advance of the show.
- Always give early renewal opportunities and discounts to
- Set performance measures for your event, evaluate performance
and plan for the next day or next show.
- Bundle your association’s membership dues with your
exhibit space rates and make every exhibitor become a member.
- Have excellent relations with all the movers and shakers
in your market (associations, trade magazines, gurus, etc.).
- Use media to moderate conference sessions; this will ensure
they attend the show.
- Never talk about a specific booth assignment with an exhibitor
until you receive the paperwork with payment.
- Create unique benefits about your event and sell them over
and over again.
- Give your show a new theme each year to tie in with your
pre-show and on-site marketing, materials and decorations.
- Keep your database “rich” and up to date.
- Create a buzz campaign to highlight other exciting things
going on in and around your show dates.
- Make it easy for your exhibitors to bring lots of people
to the show.
- Develop a co-location business model for your event.
- Distribute free guest passes not only to exhibitors but also
to the dealers, distributors and VARs.
- Have your attendance figures certified.
- If you have an international audience, keep their needs and
cultural standards in mind in developing signage, brochures,
- Invent deadlines to create more opportunities to contact
- Develop strategic alliances with partners in your industry
to enhance and expand your strengths and presence in the marketplace.
- Stand behind your show’s value and don’t discount
your exhibit space.
- Encourage non-members to attend your convention.
- Translate your home page on the web into several languages.
- Change your show dates and locations frequently and without
- Work with your strategic alliance partners to create brand
extensions for your core product.
- Don’t sign hotel attrition contracts.
- Sell flexibly: odd booth sizes, unique sponsorships, meeting
rooms, intimate key buyer receptions, etc.
- Good, clear directional signage equals happy customers!
- Develop an Emergency Plan for your show.
- If you have a virtual trade show, be realistic about your
virtual presence. Are you a 24/7 – 365 days marketplace
or a driver for on-line registration?
- Provide more block hotel info on your website to facilitate
- Publish your actual pre-registration attendance list three
- Don’t allow tip jars at any show receptions.
- Be a pest to convention bureaus and convention centers around
- Be conservative in blocking hotel rooms.
- Insert discount coupons to your show store in attendee’s
registration confirmation badge mailers.
- Reinvent yourself on a regular basis.
- Negotiate hotel contracts with attrition on profits only.
- Always track the results of your attendee and exhibitor marketing
- Add an audit of rooms to hotel contacts to improve performance
and avoid attrition.
- Create a bimonthly exhibitor e-mail news bulletin with show
updates beginning six months prior to your show.
- Spend your promotion budget primarily on those most likely
- Ask for the keys of hotel rooms you’re paying for so
that they cannot be resold.
- Never tell a lie and don't ever burn your bridges.
- If you sign multi-year hotel contracts, provide for an annual
review of blocks.
- Send holiday cards to your exhibitors and thank them for
- Be sure you are the one true “celebration of your industry.”
- Declare victory after your show or conference; you can set
- Be paranoid -- never take your eye off the competition and
other potential threats.
- Be nice and play fair.
- Reward repeat attendees with access to special VIP services
at your show.
Michael Hough is an industry consultant and author of The
Profitable Trade Show. He welcomes discussion on this topic at