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100 Trade Show Lead Generation Ideas

May 01, 2015

By Mike Thimmesch

For most exhibitors, lead generation is their #1 reason for exhibiting at trade shows.Exhibit marketers want leads to replenish their sales pipeline, bring in new and repeat customers, and generate sales revenue.

So to help stoke the lead generation fires, here are 100 ideas to get you more leads at your upcoming trade shows, divvied up among 5 main areas:

Get more trade show leads by how you select shows

1. Go to more trade shows outside your local region

2. Go to more trade shows, in your best vertical markets

3. Go to more trade shows, in foreign countries

4. Go to fewer trade shows, but put more effort into booth staff preparation and promotions for each remaining show

5. Exhibit at trade shows where your buyers are

6. Track leads to determine and expand in the shows with the best ROI

7. Evolve show selection to match changes in company’s best vertical markets

Get more trade show leads with your exhibit design

8. Get a bigger booth

9. Get a booth space closer to the hub of traffic, or by a bigger competitor

10. Get a corner booth space

11. Backlight your trade show display graphics

12. Design your exhibit to more boldly and clearly say why attendees will benefit from working with you

13. Put fewer elements on your exhibit, but make the remaining images and messages bigger and more concise

14. Use graphics with images and benefits that appeal more directly to attendees at your vertical market shows

15. Put benefit statements on your trade show exhibit graphics

16. Replace your tired old display with a new trade show exhibit

17. Make your exhibit architecture more inviting to enter

18. Pick more exciting colors on your exhibit

19. Bring fewer products, such as only your most popular products, to minimize clutter

20. Get a taller exhibit

21. Add more lighting

22. Put messages on your flooring

23. Avoid an exhibit that looks like everyone else

24. Keep your booth neat and clean throughout the show

25. Move interesting equipment and technology to the outside of the booth

26. Use a theme that gets attention and memorably ties into your competitive advantage or offering

27. Match your exhibit message to your other marketing materials

Get more trade show leads with pre-show promotions

28. Send an inexpensive postcard offering a free gift in your trade show booth

29. Run a banner ad on the show website

30. Send a pre-show email blast to your clients and top prospects located close to the show location

31. Put stickers with booth location and show info on all outgoing mail

32. Email invitation to a pre-show microsite with targeted messages and offers

33. Have your sales people invite their prospects to visit your booth and set up meetings in advance

34. Send an email invitation to the show’s pre-registered attendee list for this year, and the registered attendee list from last year

35. Use social media to reach more attendees

36. Send half of something of value to attendees before the show, and promise to give the other half in your booth

37. Contact your industry press and tell them about the innovative new product you will be introducing at the show

38. Put your booth number on all your pre-show promotions: email, mail, ads, website

39. Design more creative and compelling pre-show promotions to cut through the mailbox clutter

40. Invite top prospects to lunch or dinner at the show

41. Send a pre-show promotion offering a more valuable gift in the booth, but not to the entire list, but only to the subset of show attendees that match your target audience

42. Send free tickets to the trade show to clients and best prospects

43. Post your trade show schedule on your website with a link to sign up for appointments

44. Ask the show for additional promotional opportunities

Get more trade show leads with at-show promotions and activities

45. Introduce a new product at the trade show

46. Add motion to your exhibit

47. Offer food, especially if it smells good, like baking cookies

48. Offer drinks to your booth visitors

49. Give your attendees something entertaining and fun to do

50. Do an engaging demo in your booth

51. Get your client to hold your product

52. Go beyond sight to appeal to attendees’ sense of smell, sound, taste, and touch

53. Add interactivity

54. Run presentations or video loops on large video monitors

55. Offer healthy food, not just candy

56. Put out a candy or chocolate dish to slow down attendees long enough to engage them

57. Offer in-booth massages

58. Give a free sample of your product

59. Give a free sample of a product made with your product

60. Hire a celebrity for your booth, where the celebrity is popular with your target audience at the show

61. Hire a celebrity lookalike for your booth, where the celebrity is popular with your target audience at the show

62. Giveaway something useful to your target audience

63. Hire a performer, such as a magician, to attract attention to your booth

64. Have a raffle, sweepstakes, money machine or a game

65. Hold a press conference if you have newsworthy news

66. Sponsor something highly visible at the show

67. Have a contest for attendees in your booth

68. Get signage in the show hall promoting your booth presence

69. Offer a show special or discount

70. Get someone from your company to be a speaker at the show

71. Give presentations or educational sessions in your booth

72. Do door drops that target only show attendees at their hotel rooms

73. Pay to include an invite or a gift in the official show bag each attendee gets

74. Put an ad in the show book

75. Brand your staffers with outfits or similar attire

76. Offer one really big prize (worth thousands of dollars) to get more attention

Get more trade show leads with better booth staffing

77. Bring more booth staffers

78. Bring booth staffers who actually want to be there

79. Hold a contest to reward the staffers who take the highest quantity of qualified leads

80. Leave your wallflowers at home

81. Train your booth staff how to work a trade show booth

82. Communicate to your staff the company’s goals and your expectations of them in the booth

83. Don’t use booth staffing as a training ground for brand-new employees

84. Ask visitors open-ended questions and listen to their answers

85. Get faster at recording each lead by not writing down every visitor’s name and address, but instead using a badge scanner

86. Have enough badge scanners to avoid lines with your booth staffers in busy times

87. Bring crowd gatherers

88. Smile

89. Keep your booth staffers fresh by giving them regular breaks

90. Learn to more quickly disengage with unqualified attendees

91. Thoroughly train your booth staffers on the new products you are introducing at the show or just introduced recently

92. Make friends with your neighboring exhibitors, and refer attendees back and forth

93. Bring your top management to booth staff, and tell attendees they will be there

94. Get staffers out of the bowels of your booth and out to the edge of the aisle

95. Don’t sit down in your booth, unless you are talking with visitors

96. Don’t hide behind tables

97. Instead of giving away literature, offer to mail it to attendees, and get their contact info

98. Prepare your booth staffers with several good engaging questions

99. Arm your booth staffers with answers to common objections

100. Train your booth staffers to know your products and how they solve your clients’ problems

Which of these 100 ideas will you choose? Perhaps you are already doing several yourselves. Some can be combined to be used simultaneously. It’s a long list, and there’s no way anyone can do all 100. Some of them even contradict each other.

Yet as Bob Milam advises, while knowing a lot of tactics is useful, knowing which tactics to use and when to use them is even more useful. Determine your strategy first, then choose among these trade show tactics the most appropriate ones to support your strategy and generate more leads.

Also, while I’ve listed many tactics to get more leads, of course you need to also strive for getting higher quality leads. And if you can do both, go to the head of the class.



In this book, Skyline has compiled 27 blog posts originally published in Skyline E-Tips (formerly Skyline Trade Show Tips). The posts combine valuable information about trade show and event staffing, giveaways and lead management. From experienced trade show consultants, traditional marketers and digital marketing practitioners, these authors know Trade Shows and how to leverage modern technology (lead applications) and techniques to improve leads collected at your trade shows and events. We also dive into effective giveaways and booth staffing. Complete the form below to request your free copy!

trade show exhibiting, Trade Show Booth Staffing, lead generation
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