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Five Tips for First-Time Tradeshow Vendors


Tradeshows can be an adventure. Sometimes they are a great, exciting adventure where you are meeting tons of prospects and closing deals left and right. Sometime they are the longest, most boring adventure you have ever been on as you sit among the other vendors with a handful of people mingling amongst the booths. Sometimes they are downright terrifying adventures where the pop up display stops popping up, or you realize that you are at the wrong show talking to the wrong people. Your first tradeshow could be any of these types of adventures, but hopefully, with a little advice, it will be an exciting one. Here are a few tips on how to survive your first tradeshow as a vendor.

1. Choose the Show Wisely

The first step in ensuring that you are going to have a good tradeshow experience is to make sure you are attending the right one for your business. Take time to carefully research tradeshows for your industry, paying particular attention to who is already a vendor there, who attends (are they the people you want to reach), and how much time during the day is dedicated to attendees visiting the exhibits. You can even use Twitter to research the shows, checking out past show tweets to see the raves and hates.

If you can wait a year, I recommend that you test out any tradeshows you are not quite certain about by first attending them as a regular attendee rather than a vendor. This will give you a chance to see how much traffic the booths are receiving, what types of people are at the event, and what companies are already vendors. This is also a great way to identify best practices and things not to do in your booth as you walk through the tradeshow floor.

2. Plan and Prepare Months Before the Show

There is a lot of work that needs to be done before your booth is unpacked and you are stationed in the 10×10 spot. In the months leading up to the event, you can start the networking process so that people know about you before you get to the show. If an attendee list is available, use it to connect through social media or to do a pre-show direct mailing. Find out who you know that will be at the conference, such as existing customer or allies in the business, and ask them to help you connect with others. Don’t forget that you can also use your website as you prepare for the show.

3. Make Appointments Ahead of Time

Time is a hot commodity at tradeshows, especially the big ones. Attendees are often cramming in visits to booths in between presentations and conference events. You can make sure that you are on people’s must-do list by setting up appointments with them in advance. Create a list of hot prospects, target them with your pre-show networking and communication efforts, and then push for a set appointment time. They benefit by knowing that they won’t have to wait in your cramped booth to have your harried attention, and you benefit by knowing that you have solid leads before the show even beings.

4. Expect Things to Go Wrong

Try to be as organized as possible in your prep for the show. Make sure that you (and others) have a list of the items needed for the show. Be sure to mentally walk through each part of the show to be certain you are not forgetting anything. One company I worked with had their display shipped not realizing they did not have tools to open the crate once it arrived. Understand that, especially during your first show, those things that could go wrong are likely to go wrong, so be ready with plan B and creative, quick thinking.

5. Make a Good Impression

As you make it through your first show, stay upbeat and energetic. When you are exhausted at the end of a show it can be hard to show as much enthusiasm to those who in come into your booth as it was at the beginning of the show. It is important that you continue to smile, greet people cheerfully, remain standing, and stay engaged throughout the entire show.

Go Forth and Conquer Your First Tradeshow

If you are planning on attending a tradeshow as a vendor for the first time soon, we would love to hear from you. For experienced vendors, we would love to hear your tradeshow adventure stories and the tips and tricks you learned from your first show. Need help preparing for the show? We can help with that, too. Send us an email at or give us a call at 256-560-0098.

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