Trade Shows Don’t Work

June 1st, 2015



Trade Shows Don’t Work

I have heard that phrase and similar comments from people about why they don’t include trade shows in their marketing programs, when in reality the reason many organizations do not gain a payback from their trade show investment is “they” don’t work the trade show.

Last week while working with a client we discussed this topic in great detail and when I reviewed our Trade Show Planning tools from our Sales Management Tool Kit they were amazed at what they were not doing in planning and executing at their events.  I speak at many trade shows/conferences, to better understand the audience I normally walk the exhibit hall to listen to conversations and view the exhibits, I have always been amazed when I walk the floor;

  1. Most trade show booths are either confusing or do not clearly show or describe what the company/product/services do or what benefit they provide an attendee. You only have a few seconds as someone walks past your booth to capture their interest or make an impression-does your booth do that? Take the time to look at your booth with fresh eyes or simply ask your sales team to tell you what the booth says…to them.
  2. Most individuals working the booth have never been trained on how to work the booth. There is an art and science to capturing awareness; in most cases several good open ended questions should be created that can be asked as individuals are walking past your booth. Too often I see individuals sitting behind a table or looking embarrassed that they are even in a booth or worse they are reading their phones!
  3. Another sin I see often is that pre-event work has not been performed; no lead goals set, no booth appointments/meetings prearranged and no trade show specials created. This is obvious when there no traffic in the booth.
  4. Just as we see #5 not performed, many times post trade show work is not performed or tracked. No mailings are sent out or every lead is not followed up within 3 days of the event.

One of our recommendations we make is that at the end of each day everyone that worked the booth should meet to discuss each lead, capturing the quality of the lead and any insights they recall about the conversation with the prospect.  This is done as soon as the trade show closes for the day not when everyone gets to the office.

Trade shows can be expensive, exhibit fees, travel expenses, time and marketing costs working a trade show effectively is a must-execution on all phases must be carefully managed and inspected.  If you would like one our Trade Show checklists from our Sales Managers Tool Kit, send me an email,

What are you best tips on working a trade show?


Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 17 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for organizations throughout the world.

He was recently ranked for the third year in a row by Top Sales World magazine as one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2014.

Ken has written 5 books, his latest book is: SLAMMED! for First Time Sales Managers, Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance.  Need more sales management resources? Check out his Sales Management Tool Kit or the Acumen Project.




This entry was posted on Monday, June 1st, 2015 at 9:09 am and is filed under Sales Management Systems. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Trade Shows Don’t Work”

  1. Todd Schnick Says:

    Of course, as you know, I’ve built an entire business and have a special solution on how to make trade shows work… 😉

  2. Trade Shows Can Work!-new idea! - Partner Community Says:

    […] Several weeks ago I wrote a blog on “Why Trade Shows Don’t Work”, shortly after a good friend, Todd Schnick, wrote me a note to discuss how he makes trade shows […]

  3. Marcie Says:

    Hi Ken,

    I agree with everything you said. Face to face events have the biggest impact in terms of ROI only when there is immediate follow up. Too often everyone is high-fiving after an event and fails to do the real heavy lifting post event. Too often, exhibitors don’t do the pre work either. they aren’t scheduling meetings as you mentioned. They also don’t walk the floor to find synergies with other exhibitors. They don’t partner with their customers that are exhibiting. Finally, no goal setting before the event. Sales reps are often shocked when they think they are accountable for a number of leads. But without management driving the message and enforcing CRM entries, an event can look like a failure.

    I still believe in event strategy. But the hardest part is holding people accountable.