Trade Show Advice – Top Tips for Small Businesses

A guide on how to make the most of any exhibition

Trade Show Advice – Top Tips for Small Businesses

Trade shows are great opportunities to network and negotiate irrespective of your industry.

I’ll be representing my company at a big trade show in Frankfurt at the end of the month and wanted to share my top ten tips to help businesses make the most of any exhibition.


Research the best shows

Before booking any shows do your research and ensure that they will allow you to meet your specific goals. I recommend you look on industry-specific websites and magazines, as shows will often be advertised there detailing a full list of exhibitors.

Make a plan

Ask yourself ‘Why am I going?’ The answer may appear obvious, but reminding yourself of what you want out of the visit will help you focus on who you want to meet and any specific goals you should focus on. A narrow focus will help you make the most of your visit.

Book appointments

Think ahead and reach out to attendees by booking appointments, but with so many companies you must prioritise who you want to see. When you’re organising a meeting, supply the essential information about your company such as its size and how many units you sell per month. It sends a very clear signal to the prospective contact and you get a better chance of meeting with the right person in the company. You’ll find that appointments give real structure to your day saving you from wasting time.

Find a hotel near the exhibition

The days spent at any trade fair are bound to be exhausting so book a hotel within easy walking distance of the exhibition. Yes, it may cost more but it will save valuable time and there’s a greater chance of sharing an impromptu network in the hotel bar with other event-attendees.

Know your numbers

It’s often a good idea to carry a breakdown of the units you sell by category and have these details to hand. If you’re talking to potential suppliers, they will want to know your volumes. This could be a rare opportunity to negotiate face-to-face with an overseas supplier and to get any idea of best rates it will help you to know your volumes.

Perfect your elevator pitch

Can you sum up what your company does in 30 seconds? When talking to people with a busy schedule, you have to be succinct. Being able to explain concisely what your company does will make a lasting impression and demonstrate a no-nonsense approach to business.

At the show

Get social

Some of the most useful meetings may take place away from the formal exhibition hall and some companies may not go to the expense of having a stand, but still attend the trade fair, so set up meetings over lunch, coffee or beers with the most interesting people you meet. It continues to amaze me how much you can learn during these sorts of informal meetings, and don’t forget to exploit LinkedIn to let people know you’ll be there.

Be comfortable

Some exhibition halls are vast; the Messe in Frankfurt covers 578,000 square metres so take a wheeled case or bag, as lugging around your laptop, brochures and samples all day can be exhausting. Most importantly, never underestimate the importance of comfortable shoes.

Be inspired

Time out of the office discussing your business with others can be inspiring and help you to think differently. Don’t just talk though, take diligent notes of any ideas you have and be sure to review them when you return.

Party hard

Why not? Make the most of your days and your evenings. Many exhibitors hold evening parties on their stands or in local bars so take up any invites you get (even ask for one) make the most yet another great opportunity to meet people and enjoy the drinks, they’re normally free.

Ian Cowley is the Managing Director and founder of

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