Formulating trade show objectives: how to do that?

Rowan van der Veen
Sep 7, 2023 8:38:49 AM

A trade show participation without clear objectives is like a rudderless ship: it's sailing somewhere, but nobody knows where. Without distinct trade show objectives, there's no plan, and without a plan, there are no measurable and improvable outcomes. All of these (and more) factors influence the design, setup, and execution of the booth design. Do you want to formulate objectives for trade show participation but have no idea how? The following steps will make it clear.


1. Why participate in a trade show? 

The first step in formulating trade show objectives, is to determine WHY you're participating in a trade show in the first place. These reasons can often be boiled down to five basic motives:

  • Networking: Engaging with new partners, suppliers, or potential customers for future relationships.
  • Relationship management: Connecting with existing partners, suppliers, and clients to nurture sustainable relationships.
  • New business: Collecting leads, selling products or services, or scheduling direct appointments with potential customers.
  • Brand awareness: Ensuring that the market becomes familiar with your company name for future growth and market share.
  • Product launch: Demonstrating or showcasing a new product to your network and potential new customers.

In essence, these reasons are objectives in themselves. Once you’ve identified the why, you've already taken the first step in formulating trade show objectives. From this point, you can build upon these objectives by assessing what's needed to achieve them. The next step in this process is as following:


2. Which audience do you want to engage with during the trade show?

At the trade show, some people visit to explore, while others are on the hunt for a specific product. You can't speak to everyone, but naturally, you want to interact with the audience that's relevant to you as much as possible. This way, you efficiently manage the limited time you have at the trade show. Therefore, consider beforehand: does the target audience prefer a casual or formal approach? Are they ready for a deep conversation right away, or do they prefer watching a video on a screen first? Do they appreciate innovative displays like VR, or do they value receiving a printed flyer with a clear message?

Many of these questions can be answered before the trade show, allowing you to tailor your approach effectively. Moreover, the internet is a valuable tool to learn more about the trade show audience before the event. Think about social media groups, individuals using trade show-specific hashtags in their posts, or mentioning the trade show name in their social media messages (How? More on that later!). This way, you can better map out the trade show's objectives.

3. What do you want to achieve with this audience? 

You know why you're at the trade show and who you want to engage with. But what message do you want to communicate to the visitor, and how do you stand out? A simple combination of the previous two tips quickly clarifies your trade show participation objectives. Do you want to ensure that the right visitor makes a purchase? Or do you aim to add at least 10% new contacts to your online newsletter list? Are you looking to express interest in current customers, or do you want to show visitors that your company might offer more than the competition? Once you have this clear, it's time to start building. 


4. How do you communicate the trade show objectives to the attendees?

It's beneficial to create a trade show plan that outlines what's essential for your organization. In this trade show plan, describe the objectives SMART.

  • Specific - Is the objective clear?
  • Measurable - Under which (measurable/observable) conditions is the goal achieved?
  • Achievable - Are these objectives achievable for the trade show team?
  • Relevant - Is the goal valuable for the organization as a whole?
  • Time-bound - When should the goal be achieved?

Based on the outlined objectives, you’ll start shaping the trade show experience. Do you need much seating space, or would you prefer bar tables with tasty snacks? Will there be conducting presentations at the booth, or do you need space to showcase a product? Make sure that your booth crew know the trade show objectives and understand which type of visitor is interesting. This way, you'll engage trade show attendees who are genuinely interested in your new product and are willing to provide their contact details.


5. Make it measurable

Objectives that aren't measurable aren't really objectives. A measurable objective serves improvement and possibilities. Moreover, it motivates and energizes the booth crew. Prior to the trade show, meet up to discuss and write down everyone’s expectations, and review them after the event. How many leads did we generate? Are they of good quality? Did we achieve the target number of product sales? This way, you're all working towards a goal that you evaluate together at the end of the trade show. Celebrate the successes and take the learnings to the next event. 


Formulating trade show objectives: CHECK!

Do you still have questions about determining the objectives for your trade show participation? Or do you have other questions related to booth design? You're at the right place. We're here to help you step confidently onto the trade show floor!

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Rowan van der Veen
By Rowan van der Veen Online marketeer

Continuously seeking advancements in technology, data, and sustainability that the KOP team can apply to projects.

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