Guarantee Exhibitor Success: A 6-Step Guide for Trade Show Organizers

CEIR's recent study reveals that 61% of exhibitors rely on the previous year's event data to guide their investments, driven by the need to showcase strong return on investment (ROI) to internal stakeholders. But when the numbers are there, exhibitors are not afraid to go all-in. Statistics say that 84% of exhibitors would upgrade to a larger exhibit space if there were many high-quality attendees.

However, given the challenging economic climate, 75% of exhibitors feel compelled to cut exhibit-related expenses. This backdrop highlights the significance of optimizing costs while upholding the exhibit's impact.

Swapcard_Trade show Exhibitor revenue_ 75% of exhibitors feel pressure to cut cost_CIER Index Report 2023When one of our biggest clients in the food industry came to us with the question of attracting engaged buyers for their exhibitors, we knew we had to share some of these top tips with you, too. So, here are six proven strategies to ensure resounding success for your exhibitors, courtesy of Nina Bourotte, Strategic Account Manager at Swapcard and an event expert.

Let’s begin!

1. Set clear goals

Setting clear goalposts with exhibitors is key. Finding the marriage between organizer offerings and exhibitors’ needs sets up both for success.

Companies exhibit at events for these three reasons:

Lead generation: 

Trade shows have the perfect audience to acquire leads and start a conversation. If the primary objective of an exhibitor is to generate as many leads as possible, you can try these dedicated offerings to drive more traffic.

  • Offer catering services to exhibitors because food and drinks always attract people.
  • Offer a Hosted Buyer Program to drive qualified leads to a select few exhibitors with tailored meeting schedules. 
  • Distribute goodies on the booth after scanning each visitor coming to the booth. Drive traffic to the booth through your event app and other event communications.

💡Remember to discuss with your exhibitors whether they focus on quantity or quality leads.

Brand visibility: 

Leaving an event without converted opportunities can still be considered a success for exhibitors, especially when they've attracted significant attention. For instance, exhibitors benefit from participating in major tech conferences or trade shows as they reinforce the brand's presence.

Exhibitors can amplify brand visibility at trade shows by 

  • Sponsoring the event or keynote and other popular sessions 
  • Co-creating content and participating in conference sessions
  • Getting a generously sized booth and offering unique experiences to visitors

Live demo:

Some exhibitors launch a service or product that is easier to demo in a trade show environment. This can attract potential leads to their booth and allow them to engage with existing clients. For example, Global industrie, the leading French exhibition for the entire industrial sector, leverages exhibitions to showcase big working machines. Gamescom, a trade fair for video games, displays new games or consoles at the annual convention.

While exhibitors' motivations for attending your trade show may vary, they will look to you to provide them with the necessary tools to address their top priorities.

2. Use powerful tools

A TSNN survey shows that 97% of trade show organizers want to increase the number of valuable B2B relationships at their events. Event organizers implement several initiatives, from smart networking to Hosted Buyer programs, to connect exhibitors and qualified buyers. Such initiatives provide customized meeting schedules, networking opportunities, and additional perks, enhancing engagement and fostering meaningful business relationships. 

Swapcard_Trade show exhibitor revenue tips_97% trade show organizer increase number of valuable relationships_TSNN Report

Exhibitors can harness these networking programs to enhance their revenue potential, boost conversion rates, and broaden their customer base. 

Here are some new-generation networking and meeting experiences for your attendees: 

  • AI-powered qualification process to ensure buyers meet specific criteria
  • Complimentary attendance for qualified buyers, enhancing their experience
  • AI-driven matchmaking for customized meeting schedules with relevant exhibitors
  • Dedicated networking opportunities and exclusive lounges for relationship-building
  • Additional perks and benefits to enhance the buyer's experience

Now, how can you implement these experiences? The answer is simple: switch to digital services. 

Meaningful Business Connections – In Article

Think of it this way: Traditional exhibitor booth sales involve selling square meters and relying on random buyers to visit a booth. The main challenge with this method is that it does not ensure sales-qualified leads for exhibitors. A better alternative is to move from booth sales to smart brand activation. Many modern exhibitions merge their booth offering with digital brand activation to harness a powerful lead generation engine. 

In this reality, buyers engage with exhibitors online before the event, also known as "drive to the booth." This ensures buyers are ready to meet the right exhibitors on-site. Moreover, event organizers capture key registration data, such as buyer's interests. This data is used to generate highly useful AI recommendations. 

For instance, AI can connect a restaurant owner to New York-based gourmet suppliers. This strategy helps buyers find qualified suppliers and lets exhibitors focus on potential clients.

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3. Focus on education & adoption

Going with digital solutions isn’t always as straightforward as you’d hope. Depending on the market, the industry or the audience, moving to digital tools, such as an event mobile app, can be a long journey. 

Focus on an education and training strategy for quick adoption, starting with your team. Ensure that your team understands the value of these systems and is fully on board.

After training your team, onboard your exhibitors on new tools by:

  • Running a pre-event webinar where you share valuable tips and best practices. The aim is to equip them with the essential knowledge to generate more leads onsite and drive more ROI. Educate your exhibitors on managing brand awareness, setting inbound and outbound meetings, driving traffic to the booth, and follow-up tips for better results post-event.

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  • Providing valuable resources like ready-to-use templates, roadmaps, and checklists for seamless event preparation. Ensure you provide insights on how your exhibitors can leverage smart event solutions to enhance lead generation and share post-event follow-up strategies for nurturing leads and converting them into sales. Prior research saves buyers time and sets your exhibitors up for success. 

Encourage your exhibitors to build a personalized agenda and pre-schedule meetings to manage time better at the event.

Swapcard_Trade show exhibitor revenue tips_Matching trade show buyer and trade show exhibitor

  • Encouraging collaboration among exhibitors to share experiences and success stories. You can use event community platforms like Swapcard to create forums, encouraging mutual learning. 

4. Build a strong communication strategy

You can’t drive traffic to your exhibitors without a fully engaged audience. To increase attendee engagement, you must create a solid communication strategy that includes traffic boost benefits for your premium sponsors. 

For example, equipped with real-time event data, you can swiftly address the issue of under-attended event areas. If your app adoption numbers are high, try sending push notifications to attendees. You can follow this event app promotion checklist through the event’s lifecycle—pre-, during, and post—to meet and exceed your adoption goals!

Swapcard_Trade show content_event app promotion checklist

Successful exhibitors invest in strong communication strategies so be sure to lead by example and extend your learnings from successful communication campaigns. A few examples you can share with your exhibitors could be around: 

  • Referral programs or Influencer talks: A referral program or influencer talk turns exhibitors into event ambassadors. You can also leverage them as advocates for the solutions you offer. The more exhibitors you onboard, the smoother the audience experience becomes - particularly regarding lead scanning and capture.
  • Social media best practices: Highly engaged exhibitors are likely to share their event experience and benefits, but all exhibitors may be unable to do so due to resource constraints. And this is where you, as an organizer, can offer advice, templates, or tools to support them effectively.
  • Pre-event email campaigns: Email marketing remains a popular communication tool, so share best practices to guide your exhibitors. These tips include popular email templates, subject line ideas, or recommended sending times. If unsure where to start, look at what works for you or discuss it in a community forum so your exhibitors can work together.

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5. Prioritize attendee engagement

While prioritizing digital offerings is important, remember that trade shows are all about meaningful human connections and experiences. As a trade show organizer, you must integrate in-person and digital experiences.

Here are a few ways to combine the in-person with the digital: 

  • Offer exhibitor tours as part of a premium package to attendees who want expert guidance, comprehensive exposure, exclusive content, personalized recommendations, and enhanced learning and networking opportunities. Exhibitor tours can significantly increase visibility and foot traffic to exhibitors' booths and ultimately drive higher ROI by connecting them with a targeted and engaged audience. This is made easy thanks to a mobile app with a tailor-made agenda and bookmarks.
  • Provide a curated itinerary featuring key exhibitors and must-visit showcases. 
  • Enhance the attendee experience by showcasing diverse products and services.
  • Facilitate meaningful connections between attendees and exhibitors during the tours.
  • Offer exclusive perks or discounts to attendees who participate in the tours, incentivizing engagement with exhibitors.
  • Promote exhibitor tours through various channels to generate buzz and attract a larger audience: social networks, emailing, promotional videos, etc.

Many trade shows are now replacing session rooms with exhibitor booths, positioning their exhibitors as suppliers. The biggest challenge with this approach has been that buyers visiting exhibitors on-site are disinterested in their offerings. To improve this approach, we see industry events like IMEX presenting exhibitors as experts who provide buyers with insightful industry trends to enhance their professional skill sets and maintain a competitive edge. 

Swapcard_Trade show exhibitor revenue tips_Routing leads to exhibitors onsite based on interests and through geo location tracking

Now, you may ask how you can implement a sponsored session in-booth. You can enhance the attendee experience by enabling pre-show registration for exhibitor activities. Showcase an exclusive agenda of sessions directly on exhibitors' booths, spanning the event's different time slots. Consider spotlighting VIP exhibitors to set them apart from the rest. Provide wireless headsets for in-booth seminars, conferences, and meetings for higher audience engagement.

And there are many more ideas you can explore, such as gamification, VIP experience, and so on. Click on the link below to get all the scoop!

6. Make the most of data

The tools available for your exhibitors are important, and most event platforms offer different capabilities such as on-site lead capture, digital lead generation, meeting & networking, etc. However, how they use the event data will make a difference for your exhibitors. And they’d be looking to you for support and education on how to use these data points best. 

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Share practical tips on:

  • How to read the collected data: Understanding the source of the lead generated is important. For example, was the lead scanned onsite or had they bookmarked the exhibitor page? Reading the notes and lead score provided by the salesperson to determine if the lead was generated before, during or after the event. 
  • What information to share with leads: Tips such as the best time to connect, email messaging templates, and how to be GDPR compliant. 
  • How to keep the momentum going: Encourage exhibitors to send on-demand videos from the event to the attendee list. Remind exhibitors to update their content regularly and keep in touch with potential clients. 

All those elements are important for exhibitors to prove their ROI to their leadership team, and your support here will be invaluable.

Closing thoughts

The old ways will not guarantee success in this new world. To set yourself and your exhibitors up for success, apply these modern takes that solve a fundamental challenge: Elevating attendee engagement to ensure exhibitor success.

These strategies pave the way for engagement, efficient lead generation, and, most importantly, elevated ROI. By embracing these techniques and remaining adaptive, trade show organizers like you can remain confident in your success.

If you’re looking for new and innovative revenue streams for your trade show event, we got you covered. Check out the link below!

See Tips to Boost Trade Show Revenue

Bhavya Sharma
Bhavya Sharma

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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