August 20

Trade Show Marketing: Tips for increasing prospect engagement

Event Marketing


It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves trying to promote products and services before we’ve given the prospect a reason why they should learn more, and trade events can exacerbate the issue. After all, this is the place where you can see a lot of demos; we expect to collect product information.

However, trade shows can do so much more by creating opportunities for more meaningful engagement for everyone.

Here’s how it worked:

  • Sponsors brought in thought leaders to guide 15-minute small-group discussions (no more than 10 people) on topics such as:
    • Utilizing Automated Messages to Improve Your Email Program
    • Maximizing Mobile Email ROI
    • Optimize Data for Your Prospect Outreach
  • Event attendees could select the three topics they thought most relevant to their issues and visit three different round tables.

The marketers and sponsors loved these sessions.

Marketers could:

  • Network with a small group of people with similar challenges and speak with them later in the event
  • Get a glimpse into a vendor within the safe confines of a group

Sponsors could:

  • Demonstrate thought leadership
  • Build rapport and relationships with individual marketers
  • Use these roundtables as a stepping stone for the next step in the journey, like meeting one-on-one in a coaching clinic or stopping by the booth for a related offer. (I did note that the most effective roundtable leaders were those who led a discussion and not those who asked one or two qualifying question followed by a 14-minute PowerPoint presentation.)

It’s no wonder the roundtable events were jam-packed and most of the discussion was constant and lively.

“It was better than speed dating,” one marketer admitted to me!

Other ways to creatively engage prospects include:

  • Cocktail parties
  • Coaching clinics
  • Games to encourage networking
  • Event-specific business cards with QR codes everyone can scan

Great conferences are rich with case studies, trends and advanced practices.  This environment motivates participants to collaborate with the sponsors who are making innovation possible and each other.  Where else throughout the year can this fruitful exchange happen so readily?

Seen in this light, trade shows have the potential to be a super-intensive engagement opportunity for everyone involved. Facilitating audience participation and collaboration should be a high priority for hosts and sponsors. It certainly is for us, and we would love to hear your ideas for increasing connection, collaboration and interaction at these events.

Related Resources:

How Technology on the Trade Show Floor Can Help Your Sales Team Work Smarter and Sell More

Trade Show Follow-Up: 5 tips to optimize response

Nine Simple Tactics to Drive a Higher Return on Trade Show Investment

How to Use Lead Scoring to Drive the Highest Return on Your Trade-Show Investment

About the author 

J. David Green

J. David Green is the CEO of PipeAlign, a company that helps B2B companies tell a winning story, scale that story across sales and marketing, and measure and improve what matters most. Among other accomplishments, Dave generated a billion dollar sales pipeline in 20 months for Avaya, increased SMB revenue for Symantec from $2MM a year to $25M a year in twelve months, wrote a book on scalable lead generation, and has spoken at the DMA, MarketingSherpa, the BMA, the AMA, and many other events.

  1. Good post. I attended the MarketingProfs event last year as a sponsor and they allowed myself and probably other sponsors the opportunity to lead roundtable discussions on various topics during one of the lunches. This worked well as it was a networking opportunity and a learning opportunity for everyone.

  2. Trade shows live and die by one currency: trust. If the company organizing the trade show has the trust from other marketing activities, they can sell this trust to sponsors. Everything else is just tactics.

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