Simple Tips to Master Tradeshows & Conferences as a Startup in 2018

Attending tradeshows and conferences as a young start-up is expensive! Finding the best ways to prepare, organize and execute will help reap significant rewards and, in doing so, ultimately offset costs. This type of execution requires discipline and hard work, far beyond designing and shipping the booth, and making the flight and hotel reservations. It requires a pre-show, at-show and post-show strategy.  What follows are a few key aspects of that strategy, and an example of how to put it into repeatable practice.


1) Focus on your Message

Everyone from your team attending the tradeshow or conference should commit to focusing on the right messages and addressing the right members of an (otherwise overwhelming) audience, before, during and after the event. This message should be discussed before the event and address the ‘who you are’, ‘what you do’, and ‘why your target audience should care’ questions. Finally, your team should be able to recite the message consistently and on demand.


2) Prepare a target list

Tradeshows and conferences will likely have an extremely long list of attendees, and being able to identify them beforehand is key. Familiarize yourself with who will be attending the event in question, and promote them within your team via a target list before and at the event. The target list are the people and groups that your team should be meeting, interacting with and focusing on. At the event, everyone on your booth should be able to recognize them and know how to proceed when they meet them.


3) Define What Success Looks Like

Everyone at your booth should know what success for your team will look like for the event, and how it will be measured. This can refer to how many direct meetings and/or demos were booked (particularly in advance), how many of them actually took place, and how many had identifiable next steps. These meetings should be held with the right people – the decision influencers and makers, with an identified need, timeline and budget.  All of this must be identified up front, tracked at the event, and entered into the marketing automation system for controlled follow-up.


4) Promote yourself before you attend

Once you’ve identified a target audience, be sure to let them know you’re attending the event. If you’re interacting with them for the first time, create an email or newsletter to let them know you exist. Create a different version of the same email with slightly different wording to send out to those who are already on your email list. Here’s an example email by Tutela, a BC based Alacrity portfolio company that collects mobile network quality data across the world to help companies improve network coverage and quality. Tutela recently attended World Mobile Congress and experienced tremendous success.


A great email will include the following points:

  • It will share a bit of company history (again – different versions should be created for those who already know of your company and those who haven’t heard of your company yet).


  • It should call out the names of big customers or any other impressive company stats to act as proof-points. These can either be written out or briefly mentioned with links to keep the content shorter:

  •  It should state company objectives for the trade show or conference. In doing so, it should also specify who your company is most interested in meeting:

  • It should tell the readers “why they should care”:

  • It should contain call-to-actions so that users can easily book a meeting or learn more about the company:

Following all these tips and securing success from a tradeshow and conference is not easy, and there are no guarantees. It is, however, the only real way to ensure a reasonable rate of return on what is inevitably a major chunk of an annual marketing budget. Focussing on your message, working the target list early, defining what success looks like, and addressing your list with an informative email with the right calls to action (i.e., book a meeting, and here’s why, etc), is key.

Turning these into direct relationships that translate into revenue and long-term customer value is the only end-game that really matters.  And making sure those wins get attributed back to the event in the CRM is also fundamental.


Have the discipline, take it seriously, and work it hard before, during, and after the show.  You should be very tired when done – tired of standing, talking and demoing, and following all the points that this article outlines.



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