What Makes an Effective Trade Show Presentation?

How-To Tips, Industry Insights & Trends

If you’ve ever walked the floor of a trade show, chances are, you’ve seen the full spectrum of presentations. The worst are boring, unengaging, and gimmicky. The best make you curious, get you involved, and maybe even let you participate.

To an exhibitor, nailing a great presentation is truly invaluable. Today we’re sitting down with EDE’s longtime friend Kathryn Parris to discuss the secrets behind the best trade show presentations.

How to Prep for Great Trade Show Presentations

A memorable presentation is key to successful lead generation. But in order to work, your presentation will need support in two major areas.

Pre-Show Marketing

Before the show, creating excitement around your booth – and your presentation – is key. Email marketing is a great way to gauge interest and build anticipation. Lead users through to a landing page to explore details and even pre-schedule a meeting. Social media marketing (whether paid or organic) is another powerful tool for spreading the word.

When it comes to messaging, get specific. Attendees will receive plenty of emails that simply say “we’ll be there!” Talk about your presentation, highlight any new products or features, and even tease prizes and giveaways.

Your Exhibit Space

At the show, your presentation will be one of many things going on in your space. You’ll need to coordinate your demos, meetings, and more. It all starts with an exhibit personalized to suit your needs.

As you plan your presentation (and your exhibit), answer these questions:

  • What general spaces are needed (e.g. demo stations, a theater, meeting rooms, a hands-on workspace)?
  • How private or public do we want our presentation to be (e.g. a glass room or an exclusive space)?
  • Are there existing assets we could reuse or repurpose for our presentation?
  • How much of our overall exhibit budget should we dedicate to the presentation?
  • What tech or AV support will our presentation need?
  • Can our presentation be repurposed back at our headquarters after the show (and therefore borrow from a larger budget)?

A great presentation doesn’t have to be wildly expensive or over the top to be effective. It just takes a little planning and careful consideration.

9 Secrets to Engaging Trade Show Presentations

Now that you’ve built some hype and are ready to hit the show floor, here’s how to make the most of your presentation.

1. Know Your Audience

One of the tricks to great trade show presentations is knowing your environment and audience. You can build an incredible, hands-on experience, but if the show attendees aren’t technical users, it will fall flat.

Focus on more than just the C-level decision makers. Who will actually use your product or service? Who will advocate for its use long after the show is over? Impress your user and let them get you a meeting with their higher-ups.

2. Make it a True Team Effort

A successful trade show experience is about so much more than your exhibit. Success requires a group effort from your sales team, marketing team, and more.

Prep your team before the show. Go over high-priority attendees on your registration list as well as markers for ideal leads on the floor. Practice your flow from greeting to taking information to sealing the deal with a meeting. Schedule in breaks so your representatives can approach each attendee with energy and professionalism.

And, don’t forget to set lofty but achievable goals to rally around. Working the trade show floor can make for a long and exhausting day. Having reachable goals keeps morale high and keeps all eyes on the prize.

3. Keep It Relevant

Exhibits that rely on gimmicks are a bit of a mixed bag. Sure, they all have long lines on the trade show floor, but half of the people in them are only there to cash in on free swag.

If you plan on using any sort of gimmick to draw a crowd to your booth, follow it up with a highly-relevant experience within your exhibit. Offer attendees hands-on experience with your product or service. Let them see the value of it for themselves. Answer their questions and listen to their problems and concerns.

At the end of the day, you may have fewer leads than an exhibit that trades email addresses for free t-shirts, but the quality of your leads will make it all worth it.

4. Take Notes & Gather Data

Nearly every exhibit on the floor will be scanning badges to get basic information about the attendees at their booth. But it’s possible to get so much more.

Create a note-taking system and quickly document details that will help your team later:

  • Who is the attendee beyond their name and title?
  • What is their experience level and focus within their company?
  • Why are they attending the show?
  • How long were they in the booth?
  • What problems are they facing?
  • Do they seem interested in what you offer?
  • Are they coming up on a renewal with another company?

It may feel productive to leave a trade show with several hundred names and emails, but focusing on quality over quantity can lead to stronger leads for your business. And, you’ll have made a great first impression by being invested in your attendees.

5. Create Urgency & Excitement

One of the keys to getting attention on a bustling trade show floor is to create urgency and excitement around your presentations. Bright lights, a countdown clock, and music can all draw a crowd in. Just make sure you follow up all of that excitement with a relevant, valuable trade show presentation that attendees want to engage with.

6. Get Attendees Involved

The best way to get engagement? Be engaging!

No one wants to sit through yet another PowerPoint. In fact, your presentation doesn’t have to be a presentation at all.

Offer a hands-on experience or even a game. Show attendees how your product works and how effective it is. Allow them to engage with it. Let them ask questions. Leave them dying to learn more.

Sure, you can bring home more leads by scanning badges and sending people away with a swag bag. But, an engaging trade show presentation will bring home qualified leads from people actually interested in what you do.

7. Let The People Win

It’s simple, really. People love to win. So let them!

Adding competition to your exhibit presentation is a sure-fire way to get (and keep) attendees engaged. Trivia is good, but hands-on games are better. Add a time limit to create urgency and keep attendees moving through your exhibit.

And, when it comes to offering prizes, don’t be generic. Make it valuable, relevant, and memorable.

8. Use Time & Opportunities Effectively

Time and resources on the trade show floor are limited. So how can you make the best use of what you have?

Use your trade show presentation as part of a larger cycle to keep attendees moving through the exhibit efficiently. For example:

  1. The attendee arrives and is greeted promptly.
  2. Their badge is scanned, notes are taken, and a spot is reserved for them for the presentation.
  3. The attendee checks out a demo while they wait.
  4. The attendee watches/takes part in the presentation.
  5. The attendee speaks with solutions engineer and schedules a follow-up meeting.

Having a well-rehearsed flow like this one keeps new attendees flowing through the booth at a comfortable rate. It also allows each employee the opportunity to take breaks throughout the day.

9. Prioritize Following Up

Hopefully, you’ll leave the show with extensive information on all of your attendees. Now it’s time to make your data work for you.

Start by uploading your email list and sending a general “thanks for coming email.” Offer relevant CTAs for high-interest recipients. This generic email will buy you a little time to sort through your notes and new contacts.

Then you can flag and score potential leads based on:

  • Their company and title
  • If they had a conversation with a representative
  • If they were part of your presentation or workshop
  • How long they spent in the booth
  • If they attended a bonus event like a happy hour

This prioritized list can then be sent over to your sales team for customized follow-ups.

Key Takeaways

There are so many steps that go into creating and running a successful trade show presentation. Here’s what you need to keep top of mind:

  • Recognize that your presentation is part of a larger ecosystem. Use marketing touchpoints to advertise and build anticipation.
  • Think about your customer as much as you think about the decisionmaker above them. Don’t be afraid to design your presentation around a technical user who will champion your product.
  • Go beyond the badge scan! Take notes on your customers – who they are, why they’re here, what problems they’re facing, etc.
  • Make your presentation engaging and interactive. Creating a game that teaches attendees about your product or gives them hands-on experience is the gold standard!
  • Use your notes to prioritize your follow-up list and seal those deals!

Looking for more useful industry insights? Check out our knowledge hub, where we go beyond the typical trade show blog and dig into the nitty gritty of what really works.

Special thanks to Kathryn Parriss for her expertise and contributions to this blog!

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