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

View transcript for Episode 19 - Getting ready for a trade show as an exhibitor recording
Trade shows can be an important part of an export marketing plan. Having a stand at a trade exhibition is often a great way to introduce your company to a new market, access customers, see the competition and check demand.

However, trade shows can cost in both time and money, and require thorough planning. You should set goals before you go, to measure success and return on investment. Such as raising interest in a new product or gaining new sales or clients.

Here are a few things to consider whilst planning for a trade show.

Firstly, create an accurate budget and stick to it.

Spend time designing your stand and pay attention to its location to maximise footfall.

Use your digital channels to advertise your exhibition.

Train your staff. Working at a trade show will be different to their day job.

And contact potential new and existing customers to arrange a meeting there.

Once you’re booked, there are then some key points to remember during the trade show.

Have your sales pitch practised so you’re not caught off-guard, and be ready to network.

What you’ll learn

  • what you need to plan before a show
  • what to expect when you're there
  • what makes a show a success

Set goals to measure success

For some products and markets, having a stand at an international exhibition can be a good way to access customers, see the competition, and check demand.

But before you start planning, think about what you want to get out of the show and how you're going to achieve it. Setting goals will help you to measure your success and return on investment, and could include:

  • gaining new sales or clients
  • raising interest in a new product
  • finding new agents or distributors
  • researching competitors

If you can do all that without exhibiting, then think about whether you want to spend the time and money on a show.

You may also want to go to your first trade show as an attendee, so you can see first hand how becoming an exhibitor in the future could work for your business.


  • Great opportunity to introduce your company and product into a new market
  • Competitive analysis – see what your competitors are doing
  • Check demand for your product and make some sales


  • Huge amount of planning involved for months before the event
  • Can be expensive – think of return on your investment
  • Being among major competitors can expose any issues with your product or marketing

Planning for a trade show

Exhibiting at a trade show can carry a considerable cost in both time and money, and a successful event needs thorough planning.

Here are a few things to think about as part of your preparation:

  • research the shows in your sector and pick the right one for your business
  • create an accurate line item budget and stick to it
  • book travel and accommodation well in advance
  • spend time designing your stand and pay attention to its location in the show
  • print materials and display items in English and the local language if needed
  • use your digital channels to advertise your exhibition at the show
  • train your staff – working on the stand can be different to some of the team’s day jobs
  • contact your current customer base and let them know what is going on
  • contact potential new customers and arrange a meeting at the stand
  • if possible, arrange to be a speaker and prepare a talk about your business or product
  • research the local business culture and etiquette

During a trade show

Exhibiting at a show involves long and busy days – so stay organised. Have a daily plan in place and make sure everyone knows what they're doing. Be ready to network and think about how you’ll talk to potential clients or partners. Remember to get contact details from visitors to your stand, and make sure no potential customers leave without having yours.

Don’t rush into any agreements, particularly with prospective agents and distributors. Delay any agreement until you've returned to the UK and had time to carefully consider the proposal. You may need to take legal advice, and the final agreement should set out your requirements.

You should also:

  • have your sales pitch practised and ready to go at all times
  • dress appropriately – business dress is different across the world
  • make sure staff are on the stand at all times
  • use your social channels to ‘live stream’ the event
  • create some competitions or giveaways to attract attention
  • stay hydrated and make sure you eat to keep your energy up

After a trade show

The work doesn’t stop when you dismantle the stand. Acting fast on any leads and contacts can make the difference between success or failure.

When you get back to the office, make sure you:

  • get all your new contacts into your CRM (customer relationship management) system, and follow up as soon as possible
  • debrief the team and discuss what went well, and what didn’t
  • keep a report of the show to consult when you plan your next show
  • store your stand and display items well to keep the costs down next time

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

Social media is a powerful tool when you’re at a show. Make a noise about being there, get your customer base excited about what you’re doing and be confident that you’re giving yourself the best chance of success.

International trade adviser

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