Welcome to Part 3 in our discussion on best practices for getting back on the trade show floor. In recent months, we’ve covered pre-planning your tradeshow presence and the major points to consider in your booth layout and design. Now we’re ready for the all-important day-of/follow-up discussion. All the months of preparation come down to just a few hours on the floor with potential customers, so it’s crucial to go in with a plan to make the most of that time and the follow-up window immediately afterwards.

Pre-Show Prep

Schedule a pre-meeting logistics/schedule review for everyone involved the week before the show. You want your booth well-staffed for the entirety of the show. Be sure to block off the booth hours on team calendars and add any scheduled meetings and networking events as well as the hours of availability for any executive team members in the booth.

Make sure you’ve had a discussion with your team on the plan to handle leads and follow-up. Many companies make the mistake of spending time and money to go to a show … then their team goes home, gets buried in work, and never properly follows up. One of the biggest oversights is not having a lead-tracking plan ready ahead of time.

If you are measuring trade show success by the number of leads and opportunities that come out of an event, then your level of follow-up effort is what ultimately determines your success rate. How are you separating the hot, warm, and cold leads? Are you scanning badges, taking business cards, or having booth attendees fill out their information on a notecard? Who will be in charge of compiling all of these leads, tracking follow-up results, and making sure this information is added to your database?

Be sure your team knows that regardless of the collection method you’re using, they need a method to record your notes from each interaction. For instance, “this woman has a daughter in college or loves fly fishing”; make sure you are gathering the data that will allow you to craft a truly personal follow-up to your promising prospects. If you don’t take the time to do this, you will definitely not remember specific details at the end of four days with hundreds of follow-up cards in your hand.

Another helpful tip: Talk with your team about identifying the key traits to look for in a qualified lead. You don’t want team members spending 20 minutes talking with a “potential customer” that really isn’t a potential customer, and in the process missing a truly qualified lead. Identify the type of leads you’re looking for and make sure you are spending your limited time on the floor wisely.

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 67% of all expo attendees represent a new prospect and potential customer for exhibiting customers. Better yet, Excalibur Exhibits reports that 82% of trade show attendees have buying authority.


Plan to meet with your onsite team about half an hour before showtime to ensure everyone knows the layout of the booth, what your giveaways are, and what talking points to cover. If there is a badge scanner, make sure your team knows how to use it. It’s helpful to have a document that includes hotel information, venue details, and contact information for everyone involved, and be sure you print hard copies for the booth. Also include a checklist to review prior to the start of each day: Are your lead cards ready? Are the gift items stocked? Are the carpets vacuumed, trashcans emptied, and phones/handheld vac charged?

Remind your team that when they are on the floor, they need to be active and look engaging and approachable. They shouldn’t be eating, drinking, texting, catching up on The Bachelor, reading a book, etc. Remember, you have about three seconds for someone to decide whether to visit your booth or not, so being “on” at all times is really important.

Task a social media savvy team member or two with making your company’s presence known during the show. You can post candid shots along with pictures from before, during, and after the event. Take photos of your booth while it’s lively and has a lot of activity. Be sure to include your booth number and event hashtag. This is also a perfect opportunity to promote those fun giveaways we discussed in our first blog post. Invite attendees to stop by your booth to have a cup of coffee, enter a contest, grab a giveaway item, or watch a demo. You might also consider live-streaming contests and giveaways to draw more traffic and create interest.

Prospect Follow-up

Aside from your approach, the most important thing about a follow-up is that you don’t delay in getting it out. Aim to follow up with your hottest leads within one or two days. If you send emails sooner than this, it’s easy for them to be missed because your prospects may be traveling. But if you wait more than a week, your product or offering will no longer be fresh in their minds and you may have missed your window. In our experience, a couple of days after the event is the ideal time to follow up with leads; if you can’t make that happen, then certainly aim for within that first week.

According to Exhibitor, 5% of tradeshow attendees conduct initial follow-up the same day the lead is collected, while 17% say that they follow up 24 to 48 hours after the show and 40% do it after three to five days.

Schedule time the week after the show to track follow-ups with your team and review the show overall. How was your booth location? Did you have enough visibility and traffic? Was your giveaway item a hit with attendees? Taking the time to track what works and what doesn’t is essential for planning upcoming shows. And remember, you’re only a few months away from starting to plan for next year’s show!

Kimberly Tyner is Partner/Owner and Chief Creative Officer at Spire Agency. To stay up to date on Spire news, awards, and blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter.