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What do consumer electronics, weddings, cannabis, and adult films have in common? The industries they’re in, like many other industries, have trade shows. These days there are trade shows and networking events for just about anything. I guarantee you that if you do a quick Google search for trade shows or events in your industry, you’ll find several. So, are any of them worth going to? If so, how do you pick the right ones?

The first thing you should ask yourself is pretty obvious. Are your potential customers going to be there? If the answer is yes, it might be worth going to. If the answer is no, it might not be the best use of your money if your funds are limited. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some instances where going to a trade show of your peers or one with some educational speakers would be valuable. But if you have to pick between one of those shows and a show where you can get customers, go get customers.

Once you’ve determined that the audience for the show is one you want to reach, do some more research. Talk to people that have been to the show (leverage your LinkedIn network for this) and find out what they thought about it. It’s a trade show promoter’s job to make their event look like the best in the world so it’s great to hear from people that have actually been there to see if the hype stacks up to reality.

Let’s say you talked to some people that went and they all loved it. Now it’s time to figure out if you can get away with just attending or if you actually need a booth. If you’re really pinched for cash, you may even be able to get what you need from bigger shows at the after parties without buying a ticket at all. I’m a fan of being conservative here, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a big marketing budget. Let the established brands spend thousands on lavish booths while you hustle the crowd or exhibitors. If you do decide you need a booth to get the most value out of the show, check out our post on how to do it well.

Okay, you’ve decided to go to a show, now what? Set some goals! I can’t stress the importance of this step enough. Keeping in mind what you’re spending (in money AND time), what do you need to get out of the show to be able to consider it a success. Is it a certain number of leads, meetings, contacts, or sales? Maybe you need 200 leads or maybe you just need one conversation with that valuable, hard-to-reach prospect. Whatever it is, write it down and create a game plan for how you’re going to reach the goal. If you’re going with other members of your team, make sure everyone is on the same page.

There’s nothing I hate more than a wasted plane ticket. If you have to travel to get to your trade show or event, make sure you’re getting all the value out of your plane ticket that you can. Can you take the day before or after the show to meet with potential or current customers, partners, or mentors? Could you or your team use a vacation day away from home? Traveling isn’t cheap, make sure you’re getting all the value you can from your investment.

After you return from rockin’ the trade show, it’s time to review. Did you reach the goal you identified before going to the show? If not, think about why that might be. Maybe the show wasn’t what you thought it would be or maybe you didn’t execute as well as you should have. If you did reach your goal, think about whether those results are repeatable next year. The answers to these questions will help you determine whether or not you should budget for this show in the future. After you do this for a few years, the decision of whether or not to go to a show will already be made for you and it will be based on results, the only thing that really matters.


Tyler Sprunk
Owner // Director of Strategy