Written by: Ella Vanderburgt, ITO Indigenous Business Advisor


Are you planning to attend Trade Shows for your business?

As Covid-19 restrictions start to lessen, trade shows seem to be returning and if you’re planning on attending one, have you thought about what your desired  return is  and how to be sure it’s worth your time and expense?

Pre-Covid-19, the tourism industry had a substantial amount of trade shows available for businesses. To refresh some of your memories, here are a few: 

  • Spring Fishing & Boat Show – hosted in Mississauga
  • Business and Trade EXPO – hosted in London
  • The Outdoor Adventure Show – hosted in Toronto
  • Canadian Ice Fishing Expo – hosted in Barrie
  • Rendez-Vous Canada – hosted in Toronto
  • The Travel and Vacation Show – hosted in Ottawa 
  • Resorts of Ontario Spring Conference & Trade Show – hosted in Huntsville 
  • The Restaurants Canada Show – hosted in Toronto
  • Canadian meeting and Events Expo – hosted in Toronto 

The goal of this article is to help you put a plan in place to get the most out of your effort when attending a trade show.

What is your objective – Why are you at the show?

Here are some objectives to focus on while at the show:

  • Closing sales
  • Showcasing a new product or service
  • Gathering knowledge about competition
  • Increasing public awareness
  • Collecting leads

You should have specific, measurable goals, but how do you measure success?

It helps to make a list of what your event goals are such as:

  • Total sales revenue
  • Number of visitors to your booth
  • Number of qualified leads gathered

Now let’s talk about how you are going to optimize your tradeshow visit. Ask yourself who your target audience is:

  • Who are you trying to attract?
  • How do you identify them?

Take the time to read people’s badges. The badge usually tells you who the person is, what company or organization they are with and their role. You are looking for the decision makers and influencers because they are the ones that have authority to buy and/or promote your product.

Once you have determined who your target audience is, begin designing your booth, developing marketing items, and identifying your sales approach to appeal to your target audience.

With your target audience in mind, it’s time to think about the Logistics like these listed below:

  • Booth/table size
  • Location 
  • Display design
  • Advertising materials
  • Equipment
  • Power
  • Lighting
  • Signage
  • Budget

Consider enhancing your presence with: 

  • Video presentations
  • Prizes or draws
  • Sale promotions
  • Flyers
  • Freebies
  • Seating

Give your booth the “Granny Test”

Taking the time to better understand your customers and the language they use is invaluable and can go a long way to improving understanding, increasing engagement, trust and sales.

So take a step back and look at the language that you are using in your marketing and ask yourself if it is in your customers language.

Not convinced? Then try this: apply the Granny test by giving your marketing materials to your Granny, or someone less experienced in your field, and ask them if she gets what you are talking about. If she does, then she is either an expert in your field or you’re doing a great job. If not, then you know what to do.

It’s important to effectively use pre-show publicity to attract your potential customers to the show. You can do this by using some of the following approaches:

  • Early Sign Up to Tradeshow – Piggyback off the Tradeshows advertising
  • Newsletter
  • Email
  • Website
  • Media ads
  • Personal Invitations
  • Personal phone calls
  • Social media

The pre-show publicity is also an important way to determine who your top ten or twenty best leads are.

Now it’s time to think about your Sales/Presentation:

How are you going to approach people walking by your booth/table? What do you want from this person?

Have you prepared an introduction to qualify potential customers and determine if they are the right target contact? The key is to use open ended questions to qualify them.

Say you have a cultural experience business, some questions you could ask to get someone thinking about how great it would be to be part of an Indigenous experience might be:

Have you ever participated in a Cultural Experience, and if so, tell me about it

  • What was it you enjoyed most about the experience?
  • What do you wish you could have experienced?
  • What made you feel connected to the experience?

If they haven’t participated in a Cultural Experience, you could ask:

  • When you think about a Cultural Experience, what comes to mind
  • What type(s) of experience would you like to have
  • Which of your family or friends might like to join you in the experience

Open-ended questions like this triggers their imagination on how great it would be to use your services.

Other things to consider while engaging with someone at a trade show:

Have you scheduled a demonstration and gotten them excited to attend it? 

Have you practiced closing the sale?

Have you gotten their contact information so you can follow up?

A time frame to keep in mind is:

  • 1 minute to qualify
  • 3 minutes to present
  • 1 minute to close

Present by appealing to all the senses. Appeal to their “Buying Motive”

Remember, the customer is only thinking WIIFM – What’s In It For Me

Be sure to amplify the uniqueness of your product or service. How is it going to benefit the buyer?

If you have delivered everything above, it’s time to ask for the close. This is where many sales fail because most people feel that after presenting, the customer is either going to buy or not. In fact, most buyers are waiting for you to ask for the sale.

Post Show

Get in the habit of doing a post show analysis. How do you know what to change or improve on without doing this? Doing a post show analysis will help you to identify what needs tweaking in your set-up, delivery, or even your target market.

Here are some targets to think about:

  • Did we achieve our goals?
  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work?
  • Suggested improvements?
  • Now, go out and follow up on your leads before they go cold!

Thank you for reading this story in The Sharing Circle! If you have any feedback on this blog post, please let us know by emailing us at IBA@indigenoustourismontario.ca.

Are you planning to attend Trade Shows for your business?