As with a tasty cocktail, the secret to trade show success is in the mix. The four building blocks of any event are: lead generation, live demos, meetings with prospects and clients and last but not least, a speaking opportunity. A typical start-up will gear more towards lead-generation and later stage companies tend to pamper their hottest prospects and clients above all.

For lead generation a great giveaway is essential. One hundred cool RC quadcopters at $15 a pop, may actually work better than a one-in-a-thousand chance on winning a $1500 drone. It’s debatable. What is not, is that even on a slow show you will give away the expensive drone, where you may store the boxes with leftover quadcopters to a next time. Give the people bread and games! So make sure you have a game or other entertainment to harvest the leads and please… do so with good taste! Body painted models may be your personal fetish, but have a rather specific reflection on your brand. Okay, I admittedly have tried to get Pamela Anderson for an on the booth photo shoot, but got vetoed…

Live demos are a great way to capture the audience for a brief period of time. If you can get one or more slots integrated in the program, go for it! If not, schedule them during the breaks and advertise them on your booth.

Put serious effort into arranging meetings beforehand. Campaign and call to set as many contacts as you can, ahead of time. If you are very successful and appointments are plenty, you may even invest in getting a separate meeting room. If that is not feasible, make sure you design your booth to include space to conduct these meetings.

A speaking opportunity, especially one where a known client or authority lends credibility, will help boost brand awareness and drive people to your booth. My rule? Don’t exhibit where you cannot preach to the choir! And when the organizers do give you that slot, be aware that you’re not scheduled in parallel to main “crowd pullers”. Your jokes may be funnier than Bill Gates’, but yes… it’s a lot harder to fill a room when he’s on the main stage.

Operation Follow-up
Coming home, every minute counts. You will first need to consolidate the various sources of leads and information. You may have received the delegates list (always ask!) which needs to be combined with barcode scanners, your own lead registration results and various (meeting) notes. It needs to be deduped, cleaned and uploaded to your CRM and a report should be produced for SDR and Sales teams.

My two cents: Don’t be afraid to throw! Indiscriminately uploading every contact to your CRM is a mistake. Don’t hoard. Filter your DMs and Influencers from the rest. You should’nt be baffling the PA to the CEO with your marketing tricks, because all she wanted was to win a damn (good) giveaway. Said secretary is probably not going to make her boss buy your product.

Meet as a team twice a week for a few weeks in a row for a follow-up tour de force to squeeze every last drop out of the event. This way you can make sure that maximum ROI is on the mind of everyone. Follow-up calls and personalized emails by SDR and Sales work better than a “one size fits all” marketing “thank you for visiting” email.

Post-show ROI
Measure the event ROI using various indicators. For example: new contacts as % of all your booth visitors / new accounts as % of all / # of meetings / # of demos / # of created opportunities… and (after x days) deals connected to the event and deal size. A typical tradeshow multi-year stretch will show decline in new contacts and accounts, and as such the focus has to shift from lead generation to pushing deals through the funnel. This will involve a different type of interaction and
the event team structure should match this. Where initially setting out with for instance 75% SDR / 15% Sales / 10% Product, you may move to  40% SDR / 40% Sales / 20% TAM (Technical Account Managers). Plan, Execute, Measure – Innovate!

Up Next: Setting up your own line of events