How to Maximize Your Investment in Conferences and Trade Shows

Let’s face it. Conferences and trade shows are expensive. And now that we have dozens of national and regional conferences to choose from, we want to ensure we’re getting the best return we can from the investment we’re making. Just setting up the booth and staffing it in the hopes that the right people will come by and chat is not an effective strategy. It may have been enough in previous years when the vendor community was smaller, but now the big conferences are huge and it can take multiple days for your prospects to walk the floor of the exhibit hall in addition to attending sessions.

The primary reason to invest in shows is that it puts you in the path of hundreds of potential customers in a sea of up to 25,000 attendees. Here are some strategies to ensure that you are making the most of this investment:

  • Be selective – perhaps consider fewer shows with a higher level of investment and interaction.
  • Invest in your booth design so that whatever the size, it makes a bold statement to capture the attendance of prospects walking down the aisle.
  • Sponsor a speaker – either an educator from your company or one of your customers. In addition to sponsoring the session or multiple sessions, have them at your booth at specific times at a “meet and greet” or book signing. Send out invitations and/or offer a giveaway to incentivize visitors to your booth.
  • Train your booth staff to answer questions from any educator despite their geography. Regional salespeople often staff exhibit booths. All of them should be able and willing to answer basic questions. Introducing or handing off to the appropriate sales person is fine, but every visitor to your booth should receive the red carpet treatment.
  • Call customers and prospects and invite them to your booth for face-to-face conversations. Provide an incentive so that they make the time to come see you.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to participate in a vendor showcase. Many education shows offer this as an opportunity to get in front of buyers and influencers. It’s an efficient use of the buyer’s time and yours as well.

There are other non-exhibit opportunities you can explore to use the conference or show as an opportunity to meet with your customers and prospects. You want to take the opportunity to assure current customers that you appreciate their business. And it is often through social situations that relationships begin that later develop into business.

One of the essential ingredients to doing business with schools and districts is having an authentic relationship with them. As people, not just as educators and vendors, we like doing business with people we know and respect.

Some of the other opportunities to consider include:

  • Holding a focus group
  • Sponsoring an educator breakfast/lunch with customer presentations
  • Co-sponsoring an educator evening event
  • Hosting a dinner for a small group of superintendents

As you see, there are opportunities to expand your investment in shows beyond just staffing a booth that can increase awareness of the products and solutions you offer and generate high-quality leads. Just as in the virtual world, engagement is everything. Take advantage of being in the same place as so many of your customers and prospects and you’ll maximize your investment in the conference or show.


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