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Trade shows and trade missions:How to prepare for a trade show as an attendee

What you’ll learn

  • what to expect at a trade show
  • what you need to do before you go
  • how you can get the most out of your day

Gain an understanding of your target market

International trade shows are invaluable for helping you understand what’s happening in your target market. Potential clients and partners, customers, industry associations, and your competition are all there, under one roof. You can get a good idea of which approaches work, identify possible opportunities, and make new contacts – all in a short space of time.

You can also see if the show is right for you to attend as an exhibitor when you’re a bit more established in the market.


  • Meet potential clients and partners, and get an idea of what your competition is doing
  • Understand if the show is right for you to exhibit at in the future
  • See all the current and future market trends first-hand


  • Tickets, travel and hotels can quickly add up to a substantial cost
  • Potential customers may be more interested in talking to exhibitors than visitors
  • A general show may not cater for your specific product

Things to do before you go

A successful trade show is all about good planning – whether you’re going as an attendee or an exhibitor. To get the most out of your visit:

  • book all your travel and accommodation well in advance
  • find out who is exhibiting and write a list of who you want to see
  • get a plan of the exhibition and decide which stands you want to visit
  • set up any meetings you want to have in advance
  • book places at any talks or demos, if needed
  • make sure you're aware of any cultural differences, particularly with greetings
  • print some business cards and promotional materials in the local language

What to do when you're there

The most important thing to do on the day is get there early – fresh and well prepared – as it will be a long day. If you’re going in a group, work out who is doing what and know where to meet up throughout the day. It’s best to:

  • get an updated plan of the show stands (it may have changed from when you booked)
  • work out a route around the venue
  • wear comfortable clothing and footwear
  • make sure you have water and a good-sized rucksack

Find trade shows for your sector and market on the Department for Business and Trade’s events listing.

Leave plenty of time between any meetings you book in advance. Trade shows are often huge, and it can be quite a mission getting from one place to the next.

International trade adviser

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