How to Get The Most from a Business Fair

By Alan Boyer

Do you get many leads from a business fair? Here’s how to get 25% of this year’s sales from the next business fair? Or getting 3 out of 5 you tak with. Read on to discover how.Whenever I’ve asked my clients whether they have a specific goal for trade shows or chamber business expos, most don’t. They are going to the show

  • “to be seen,”
  • “to see what it might do for them,”
  • or, in some cases “sell up a storm.”  

 My follow-up to that is: “If you don’t have a map showing you

  • where you are going,
  • how far you are going, and
  • how to get there,

what is the chance that you will ever get there?”  We must turn the “to be seen” into a measurable, almost visible goal:

I will meet with 50  people at the show, and convert 25 of them into customers (pick your own numbers)  by

  • Step 1………….
  • Step 2……….
  • Step 3………
  • Etc.

In this article we’ll discuss ways of defining exactly what you want to happen and by how much?

Then…..we’ll do it….step by step

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At last year’s KCK Business Fair there were 110 exhibitors and 1000 attendees.

  • How many of those do you intend to meet with or talk to?
  • How much is a customer worth to you?
  • Should you rely on those that just happen to walk by your booth, or can you actually define how many will stop by your booth?

If you intend to talk to only 10% (100) of those people, and 2.5% (25) of those become customers, then this show would be worth “how many dollars” to you? (Every business is different, but having goals and a plan for the show is critical). With a plan in place, that really isn’t too hard.

So, the key to making this a successful show is to develop a plan that will bring more people into your booth, and then turn them into an appointment, or a sale.

Let’s break this down into three steps (before the show, during the show, after the show) that will optimize the returns from the show.

BEFORE the show—Planning  

1. Booth location—What is the best location?

A corner with exposure on two sides, near the entrance where you will be seen by people arriving AND when leaving.

2. Define what we want to have happen and how; establish measurable targets of how many people we will talk to, how many will become our customers, and a specific step-by-step plan to do just that.

3. Designing the booth (Should you use the KCK table and sign, or bring our own booth). Booth layout is critical, including the sign, and what we will say to attendees, who we will say it to, literature/brochures, capturing business cards

4. Market our booth and presence at the show, tell the world, and invite our target customers to our booth. This is probably one of the most critical pieces if you truly want to get the most from the show. This is how you define EXACTLY how much you can deliver at the show.

DURING the ShowGoal is to be seen, set some appointments, and capture contact information for qualified prospects.

  1. Setting up the booth—The keys to talking to more people
  2. Literature or no literature
  3. Number of people needed
  4. Walking the show floor or staying close by
  5. Are we there
    • To Sell
    • Be Seen—Brand Awareness
    • Collect leads for follow-up
    • And put those into measurements that we can develop a plan for.

5. Develop the action plan for what we actually do at the show

AFTER the ShowGoal—Turn the contact information into sales or “the next step” on the way to a sale.

1. Follow-up plan

Having a follow-up plan—how we intend to follow up the leads we get at the show is critical to our success. Each and every lead must be followed-up quickly. For every day that passes without a follow-up those leads become less and less likely to mean anything at all.

      What is it you intend to do with the leads?

  • Call for appointment
  • Send an information packet
  • Other?

Ok, let’s get to it.

BEFORE the Show


Booth Location

To get an ideal location requires that you apply for your booth location early. Of course, if you are receiving this from the Chamber you probably have already chosen your booth so I’m not going to spend a lot of time here.

Ideal locations:

  • a corner where you are exposed to traffic on two sides
  • near the main entrance where everyone walks by your booth on the way in and on the way out.  Wow them on the way in, and catch them on the way out to remind them of you.

Booth Layout

Although many trade show providers and Chambers will provide you a table and a sign the first thing you should remember is:

Don’t leave the table between you and the potential client. If you want success put the table out of the way where you can have unobstructed interaction with the people walking by.

Do you just use the booth layout and sign provided by the Chamber, or do you rent or buy your own booth display?

If this is your first time, you might want to go with the table and sign provided by the Chamber but move the table to the side or out of the way in the back. If you intend to make this a serious part of your yearly marketing and if you intend to do more than one Chamber event each year, getting your own booth might be the way to go.

Many smaller companies have avoided getting their own booth for fear of expense. Let me suggest a way to help make that decision. Every decision should be made on a Return On Investment decision. In other words, how many dollars will it cost compared to how many dollars you intend to make from the show? If you can justify at least paying for the booth with the new customers (based on what we determined a customer’s worth in a year) then you should do it. You return on investment for the show could be 10 times the booth cost for one show, if done properly.

Booths can range from thousands of dollars to buy, to $100-$500 to rent depending on the size and whether you have to add signs, displays,  and literature to the booth.

There are several signs companies in the chamber that can supply you signs for your booth and even rent you a booth.

Should We Use the Booth Signs Provided by the Chamber or Get a Complete Booth?

Although most Chambers furnish a sign for your business, a sign only tells the show attendees WHO you are, not what BENEFITs they would get from working with you. People come to the show to find BENEFITs for their businesses not to here you tell them about your business. Telling them who you are is not as effective as telling them a benefit they might get from stopping to talk with you. Everything you display in your booth should tell the people walking by what BENEFITs they would get if they stop to talk; give them a reason to stop at your booth.

Just placing a sign that displays your company’s name doesn’t encourage anyone to stop (unless of course they already know who you are and have heard about you before). Your goal at that show is to attract people that have a specific need, so….every sign in the booth should say something about

  • The customer’s problems
  • Your solution to those problems.

The most prominent display should be a BENEFIT, not who you are.

Go to our website at and browse through the articles on marketing or business improvement to learn more about how to successfully increase your response rate to your booth or to other marketing material. (We will be adding articles on Marketing to the site between now and the show date.)

Booth Literature

Do you intend to give away literature at the show? There will be a lot of people just walking the show floor grabbing everything and anything. Most of it will be thrown away back at the office. It’s up to you whether you just put it out for them to grab as they walk by, but I don’t recommend it.

My goal is to talk to them, learn what their wants and needs are, and then point out something in the literature that will solve their problem. I’ll also make a note on their business card to call them to talk more about solving their problem. If I’ve done my job, I will have planted an interest in their minds that I can rekindle when I follow-up after the show.

I put literature at the back of the booth, sometimes  not even visible, then I hand out the literature to those I talk to that show an interest. This makes for better use of my handouts.

What does your literature say? I’m not going to go into a lot of depth here. Instead, go to our web page  and browse through the articles on marketing to improve your business.

To make it simple: The same principles apply to creating marketing material that tells about benefits we offer, not about you. The customer isn’t interested in you, at least not at this point. Until the customer learns that you offer something that could benefit him significantly he isn’t interested in who you are. The sales process is a series of small steps that should be taken in order. Stepping over any of these usually causes the customer to feel like you’ve just turned into a high pressure salesman. So, follow the steps.

The customer is interested ONLY in what benefits they will get from your service or your product early in the process. If you focus on the customer’s needs, you will see your response rate go through the roof.  (By the way, do you know your response rate for each piece of literature you send out? If not, you should. By properly choosing what you say, how it is said, and who you say it to you can turn so-so marketing materials into really powerful marketing tools.

For more information on marketing successfully go to our website and browse through the articles to improve your business.

Marketing the show

Marketing yourself prior to the show:

A real key to success at the show is to let people know you will be at the show, make sure that they come to the show, that they know exactly where you are, and why they should look you up.

I’ve found that IF I send marketing material to Existing customers and to New potential customers will produce 5-10 times as many people actually stop at our booth as I would have had without marketing the show. If I’ve done a good job with the marketing material, they want to check us out. It is an EASY opportunity for them to just drop by while they are in the show, and some actually come ONLY to check us out.

How many people would you like to visit your booth at the show? How many can you handle in the time available and the number of people that will be manning the booth?

I assume roughly 1-2 minutes for tire kickers, and 5-10 minutes per person for each person working the booth, if they are serious. 6-12 people/hour for 4-4 ½ hours, or 24-48 leads is possible.

(NOTE: For anyone that has ever worked with us as their business coach, I’m sure they remember the fact that we DEFINE:

  • How many dollars we want
  • How many customers that takes, and then
  • We develop a plan that DELIVERS.

What we are doing here isn’t much different. If you want more details you can go to our website at  and browse through the articles on marketing to improve your business.

For direct mail marketing (you can use whatever method you want) I will assume a 1% response rate. Therefore to target having 24 people visit my booth, I will need to send approx. 2400 pieces of mail, or for 48 people visiting my booth I’ll need to send 4800 pieces of mail.

Who do we mail to? How do we get a list to mail to?

  • Either buy a list from the chamber, or get names from the printed or online Chamber membership directory
  • If you have a library card go to, then to Reference USA for free access to an online database of businesses in the area. Pick a market segment you want and download a list that you can mail .
  • Another list source is Sales Leads USA It’s actually owned by the same company. You can sign up for free for one day of unlimited access, or join for $75/month with unlimited access to their lists (you can do a 30-day trial with full refund as well).
  • Of course, also send to your existing customers inviting them to drop by your booth.

How to easily develop your own marketing material:

If you want to do your own marketing material the U.S. Post Office ( offers a fantastic service where you can upload your own Microsoft Word Document, and mail list. They will print it, insert it into the envelope, and mail it for not much more than the cost of mail.

You can also download a template from that site for a postcard, letter, or self-mailer.

Prepare either a postcard (easiest, and cheapest), or a letter in Microsoft Word.

Prepare a mail list in Microsoft Excel (any of the lead sources mentioned above can be transferred into Excel).

What do you say in the marketing piece?

The very first line should be—Why they should do business with you, or Why they should meet with you at the show. People don’t buy for who you are, they buy what you can do for them. Tell them the benefit of working with you. Most companies, and sometimes even marketing companies, lose sight of the fact that THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU, or what you sell. It is about what the client needs and wants. So, nothing at the top of this ad should be saying anything about you or your company. It is what they want and need, and why they would get that if they met with you at the show.

Check out our website and browse through the articles on marketing to improve your business.

We will be placing additional information on marketing and improving your company on the website between now and the Business Fair. Check it frequently for updates. (If you are asked for a password just use KCK as the password. We are making our site completely free for the KCK members leading up to this show.)

DURING the Show

What are you going to do DURING the show?

What you say and who you say it to in the booth–This is the key at the show. I see exhibitors frequently roaming around, or talking to each other in the booth, and, because they are talking they frequently don’t even see people walking by, or even more importantly don’t see those that hesitate for that valuable 5-10 seconds in front of the booth.

You are there for ONLY ONE REASON—catching the attention of a potential customer. So, don’t let those valuable 5-10 seconds slip by. That is all the time you have to catch a customer. The sign is important to get their first glimpse, but you have to be there to move them into your booth.  So if you are talking with the exhibitors in the next booth, or with your own employees, you could potentially miss an important opportunity.

What do you say?

First, it’s about the customer and his needs, not about you. So, don’t start off with “Hi I’m…… and I’ve got the greatest…………. in the world!”

Ask them about their business, and what are looking for at the show. Can you help them find something? Direct them to the right booth. Remember…..IT IS ABOUT THE CUSTOMER, not about you. If you get them talking about why they are there and what they want to get from the show, eventually they will learn that you are there to help, not just sell.

Remember the key measurements we talked about early in this article. My goal is to get 50% of the people I talk to at the show actually ask me what I can do for them. That is the time that we can use our 20-second elevator speech  (all about benefits, and a Wow! Gee Whiz statement at that). And that’s all I’ll do.

You say, “How does that get me a customer?” If I’ve done a good job of my 20-second speech they’ll have to ask more, especially if they have a need for that. That’s my opportunity to tell them more, but not a lot more. For these you hand our your marketing brochure to, make sure to capture their own business card–have a fish bowl, or some other container for them to put their card into.

If they aren’t interested they weren’t potential clients anyway. They’ll move on, but they will remember me, and they’ll see that I really do deliver benefits to a lot of companies. Before they move on, make sure to ask them if they know of someone else who might be able to use your services or product.

Capture customers and interest!

My goal for the show is not to sell at the show. It is to capture potentially interested companies. So, I ask them for their business card, and if they’ve shown REAL interest we will set an appointment. (Make sure you have an appointment schedule with you all of the time.)

Let’s throw one more thing into this mix–Whether you sell at the show or not, most will not, or SHOULD not. If you are selling trinkets, something worth just a few bucks, you might sell at the show, but, to tell you the truth, I’d just give a few away at the show to each exhibitor, or ask that the other exhibitors give away your trinkets at their booth for their promotions (but make sure your name is attached as well). You will be exposed not only to EVERY exhibitor, but you will also be widely seen throughout the show exhibitors AND attendees.

If you are selling something of substantial value, hundreds or thousands of dollars, then you are not likely going to sell at the show. If you’ve already been working a potential client, then you might actually close at the show, but you would be wasting valuable time with that client instead of hitting the many others walking by. So, if a client is trying to close, don’t pass it up but be aware of the time you are missing with everyone walking by.

Your goal at the show is to capture names and business cards from potentially interested companies and generate enough interest that you can follow-up with a meeting. So, capture the business card and set an appointment if you can.

One key to being successful at a business fair is to be able to show yourself as an expert in your field. Offer free follow-up advice, free online information, etc. You are there to help others, not sell.

How many people should you have in your booth?

As I’ve said before, don’t spend your time in the booth talking to each other. This will discourage people from stopping to talk to you.

You should have 1-2 people in your booth so that if one is talking to an interested party, the other will be actively watching for others walking by that show an interest.

You should also be able to have one person cover the other exhibitors in the show. When times are slow in your own booth, someone can be walking from booth to booth introducing himself and your company.

AFTER the Show—follow-up

This is absolutely critical. Having a follow-up plan that will get everyone that you talked to contacted within the week. For every day that you don’t get to that contact their interest is going away at an exponential rate. In two days they have 1/4th the interest they had when they originally talked to you. In 3 days their interest has dropped to 1/9th. Their interest can be gone by the end of the week.

How fast have you responded in other shows?

Fast response requires that we have a plan to pull it off. The plan must be developed even before the show starts. By the way, you should have a similar plan for ANY networking you do if you want maximum results.

Measurements? My goal is to

  • Have an appointment with 10% of the people I talk to at the show. Appointments are to be within the week. (Make sure to have your calendar with you).
  • Have a business card or interest questionnaire from roughly 50% of the people I actually talk to at the show. (Call them within 2 days).
  • Get an appointment with 50% of those by the end of the week.
  • Get an agreement with 50% of the others to receive follow-up emails and calls later.
  • Send informational emails and letters (not selling, just information on how to build a business) about every 2 weeks for 8 weeks.
  • Call them all at 8 weeks.

o 50% of those will set an appointment

§ 50% of those will become my clients

§ All of these will go on my monthly newsletter subscription list.

§ They will also receive a personal email once every 2 months offering additional free business information.

Here is what I do:

Appointments I get at the show: schedule them for the next week. Be prepared to keep your schedule open for the week after the show so you can fill that appointment calendar at the show. Have the appointment calendar with you. Some will want to meet later and work with them as well.

Business cards and questionnaires filled out at the show: Call them within the next 2 days to ask them what they thought of the show (not about you, remember?) Did they achieve what they wanted from the show? How can you help them get what they wanted at the show? If they haven’t gotten around to you, then before closing the call, ask them what they thought of your service or business. (Let them do the talking.) Ask them if they know of anyone who might need your product or service. I’ll usually end up with an appointment with 50% of those.

One key measurement I use is this: It takes 5-7 exposures to a potential client before they act. So, without having a detailed follow-up action plan you are leaving a LOT of potential clients on the table.

Leader’s Perspective turns small businesses into bigger businesses within weeks, and bigger businesses turn into more successful than they ever thought possible.

Would you like to 

  • Turn the Kansas City, Kansas, Chamber Show into one of the most successful shows you’ve ever been to?
  • Build your business bigger than you thought possible?

Give us a call at 816-415-8878 we’ll spend some time with you at no charge to make that happen.

Helping People and Companies Reach Further Than They EVER Thought Possible….FASTER

The Leader’s Perspective


The Leader’s Perspective, 6 Pemford Place, Liberty, MO 64068
Helping People and Companies Worldwide Reach Further than they ever thought possible….FASTER
Home Office is in Kansas City, MO area
Phone 816-415-8878

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Alan Boyer
Leaders Perspective
6 Pemford Place
Liberty, MO 64068


Phone: 816-415-8878
(Kansas City, MO area)