For the most part, trade shows break down into two formats:

  • Conference series with a trade show attached
  • Trade shows/ expositions

How the show format factors into setting your trade show objectives:

Trade shows and expositions are focused solely on trade, the debut of new products and facilitating networking between industry professionals. Since attendees of these types of shows do not observe a conference schedule, your booth staff will have time to focus on qualifying serious buyers.

When it comes to exhibiting in trade shows that are attached to conferences, knowing the conference schedule and how it affects attendee traffic will help you set realistic objectives. Your goals will be based on educated projections of how much face time you’ll actually be spending with attendees.

What to consider if you’re exhibiting in a trade show/ exposition:

Are you qualifying attendees based on what stage of the buying process they’re in? According to Exhibit Surveys, 49% of tradeshow attendees surveyed planned to purchase in the next 12 months and 66% rate their booth visits as very or extremely valuable in comparing and evaluating offerings for future purchases.

Both of these statistics confirm that attendees of trade shows and expositions are actively engaged in one part or another of the buying process. But as an exhibitor, do you know which stage?

Potential customers who are in different stages require different types of information to progress through the initial stages and reach a buying decision. Discovering which stages they’re in and tailoring your sales message to them is the key to establishing a relationship early and winning the bid.

How to sell to customers in each stage:

According to A Guide to Understanding the B2B Buying Process, by the Inbound Sales Network:

“Communication during the ‘Awareness Stages’ should introduce your prospects to industry trends that point to developing issues and the business value of adopting change. This early consultative approach is crucial: Forrester Research reports that 65% of vendors that create the buying vision during this early stage get the deal.

Communication during the ‘Evaluation Stages’ should:

  • Find your unique point of view which can challenge prospect’s assumptions and create more demand
  • Create clear points of differentiation between you and your key competitors

Communication during the ‘Decision Stages’ should highlight customer success stories and demonstrate how your customers have achieved successful project implementation and business value.”

What to consider if you’re exhibiting in a trade show attached to a conference:

Is the exhibit hall completely closed to attendees during conference sessions? If so, take the opportunity to find exhibiting companies with whom you can do business and set appointments with them, outside of the venue, during the time the show floor is closed. This way, you’re networking and gaining exposure with qualified leads while attendees are unavailable.

Does the trade show portion of the conference series remain open for attendees who have not paid to attend conferences? This is the most common type of conference series with a trade show attached. Although the show floor is not closed completely, attendee traffic tends to slow while conferences are in session.

When traffic slows, this is a prime opportunity to connect with other exhibitors who represent potential customers or partners. Again, knowing how to maximize these periods where, as an exhibitor, you’re competing with conference tracks for the attention of attendees is crucial to maximizing your investment. By networking with exhibitors, you’re interacting with potential customers regardless of the effect the conference has on the traffic flow.

Knowing the conference schedule will also help you plan the best times to conduct giveaways, announcements, product demonstrations and more. This way, promotions designed to draw a lot of traffic to your booth can happen when the conference schedule allows the maximum amount of attendees on the floor.