How to get noticed and approached by warm leads at your next trade expo

Trade expos can be an excellent marketing activity and resource for connecting with new clients. But often companies get lost in the shuffle of eye-catching stalls and innovative exhibitors. You need to stand out, get the attention of your target market and, most importantly, get those warm leads to come to your stall.

So, what can you do to get noticed and approached by your target audience? Check off these twelve things before the day!

Trade Expo wall signage
Use the walls of your display space if possible. Take blu-tac in your event box to avoid damaging the walls with semi-permanent adhesive or tapes.

1. Have great signage

Signage with bang-on messaging is a must. Your name, and what you do must be absolutely clear. If you don’t let your audience know that you are offering what they need, they won’t know to stop by your stall. Clarity is essential.

And your signage must be visible above head height so potential leads can read your banner from a distance. This pulls an individual’s attention out of a fast-moving crowd and focusses them on you. It’s the first step in moving them toward you intentionally.

If your signage isn’t clear to the reader, they’ll walk past. And if it’s not visible, they’ll never even know you were there.

2. Use table top signage

Once you’ve captured attention with good signage and a clear message, you may find you have more people at your stand than the number of staff available to chat during peak periods.

Waiting is boring, and when people have to wait to speak to you, there’s a risk they’ll decide to look at something else and come back later. This is not what you want. Instead, you want to keep the attention of waiting warm leads by placing interesting and informative elements on your tables or around your display. This could include, smaller signage, brochures, business cards, annual documents or magazines, special checklists or tear away forms. These are all usable marketing items which can be read while they wait to speak with you.

3. Video presentation

There’s nothing better than a moving visual element on a business trade exhibit. If you’re attending an event at a major conference centre and are allocated a booth, you’ll have space for a TV to play video or images on a loo. If you don’t have a large area, a laptop will do the trick as long as you can present it easily. And there are fabulous and fairly inexpensive iPad stands available from expo suppliers, should a tablet be the best option for you.

You can spend big on fancy equipment or put together a smaller, less expensive presentation method, but having a visual element is an excellent way to grab attention.

Consider having your visual element on a three-minute loop. One- or two-minute loops will run out quicker than you can wrap up a conversation. Keep your audience captive!

4. Be flexible and creative

Venues vary greatly and each venue will have limitations with regard to the space, size and shape of your display. Find these out before the day of the expo. Even if you’ve been a stallholder at the event before, double check that nothing has changed.

Then, be flexible. Think how those limitations might be used to your advantage. If there are no walls around your stand, could you place seating for waiting guests, which would also delineate the area? Could you show a video in that section?

Each venue requires some adjustments and flexibility. Be creative, be innovative and keep asking yourself, ‘what would keep my guests here at my stall?’

A bright coloured, clear space display.
Display your space beautifully.

5. Sell something

If you’re a product-based business, bring boxes of product and display them as though you’re the perfume section at Myer. Be beautiful! Think luxury! Even if your business has a boho-vintage vibe, go boho-luxurious! Putting your best foot forward for product display is key as a trade exhibitor. You don’t actually have to sell your product on the spot. If your presentation is quality, people will be more likely to buy your product later, if not right now. And if they love your product, they’ll be back without you needing to chase them.

Competition signage on the table top.
Have signage showing what a competition winner receives.

6. Run a competition

Competitions are the easiest ways to secure contact details from expo guests. Make entering the competition easy. Use a large container for business cards – think see-through Perspex boxes, a pretty glass bowl or an engraved ice-bucket. Use sign holders next to the container to list what the prize is and encourage stall visitors to enter.

It’s essential that the prize includes something tangible – a real prize – not just a prize of your time or a discovery session with your company. Think about what other items could be attractive to your target audience. Your book – or one you’ve found beneficial – a sample of your products, a gift voucher for your business or another, tickets to your next workshop or conference or even a professional service every business needs, such as design work or videography.

All of these will encourage warm leads to engage with you, meaning you’ll have more opportunity to engage with them in the future.

7. Interrupt your conversation

You have approximately two minutes to acknowledge someone before their patience runs out and they walk away. Plan and practice polite ways to pause your conversation with one person, so that you can address others visiting your table. Excuse yourself briefly with an easy, ‘Excuse me, I’ll just point these people in the right direction’ or, ‘Pardon me, while I let these people know I’ll be with them soon’.

Short, sharp (but polite) direction or acknowledgement to those waiting is invaluable in having them wait for you a little longer. It also reminds the person you are talking to that they aren’t the only person interested in chatting to you.

You also need to think about the conversations you are having. Some may be more worthwhile than others, and it’s important to determine that fairly quickly. It’s also essential to be able to gauge whether or not a long or complicated conversation should be put on hold for a follow-up phone call or a meeting away from the event. This way you don’t lose the next waiting lead, and can still nurture your new connection at another, more convenient, time.

8. Get help!

If you have a lot of services or products in your business, ask a friend to help you out. You might want to offer a service exchange or simply pay them, but having two people on a trade expo stand is a must for major events.

There’s nothing worse than being underprepared, understocked or overwhelmed – all of which are regular problems for small businesses at expos. Remembering you have outlaid funds to exhibit at this event. Don’t waste the effort and resources you put into getting there by not being able to cope with enquiries on the day.

You also have the added bonus of being able to have lunch (you don’t want to be that person eating and talking to a potential lead) and toilet breaks, and even spend time visiting other stands yourself.

9. Keep up the energy

Expos are not easy for exhibitors. Standing up for hours on end is a hard task. But the last person you want to be, is the person seated with a phone in your hand, looking down. Keep the energy up. Don’t ignore the traffic flowing past you (and yes, I see these people at every expo). Keep standing, smiling and engaging politely with people who pass by or stop to chat.

Being a trade exhibitor is your opportunity to get yourself in front of new leads, present yourself well and represent your business and brand to hundreds of new clients (if not thousands at a major convention centre event). It’s worth pushing through any uncomfortableness.

10. Follow up

Pre-plan your communication strategy with your new contacts from the expo. Don’t start sending an email a day for seven days. This will just annoy your new leads and ensure they unsubscribe and throw out your business card.

A simple, well-crafted and short communication following up is the best approach. You can give the results of your competition (if you’ve had one), or email a link to connect with you on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, if you prefer. You might also send them a downloadable resource or a link to a video that reminds them of who you are and what you do. In every case, you must ensure that your communication is helpful and adds value and isn’t just spam.

11. Facebook Live

Run a Facebook Live competition. Organise when you’ll do this before you send out your follow-up email (as above) and make sure to let your reader know how they can listen, and enter your competition (use your Facebook link to take them to your page directly).

If you run the comp a day after the email it allows time for it to be read and action to be taken by the reader. It also puts you front of mind as you’re now, quite literally, at the top of their Facebook or LinkedIn notifications.

12. Connect directly

Use LinkedIn to reach out to every person whose business card you received at the expo. Send a Connection Request and, when doing so, add a personalised note reminding them that you met at the event, and that you’d like to keep in contact. This technique means you’ve layered your emails and Facebook Lives with a professional and direct connection that you can foster further in the future.



How many times you get approached by visitors at a trade expo is completely up to you and the effort you put into your display before the day.

You control your destiny. Your trade expo success relies on you having more than a casual chat. Make genuine connections and provide marketing material or other collateral to those connections. But most importantly, you need to capture contact details from those people in return. This is the beginning of turning warm leads into engaged customers.



Before you invest in your next trade display stand, get an audit on your last results.

Speak to the Social Ocean team about your event outcomes, get creative with your call to actions and set up for success. Book an audit in today.