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6 Ways to Free Up Time at a Trade Show

How to spend fewer hours working on chores and errands, and more hours meeting leads.

Trade shows are great time savers. They bring you thousands of potential buyers in just two or three days.

But the work of running your booth could pull you away from meeting them. How can you give yourself maximum time to cultivate leads?

1. Get a booth that you can install fast.
Building a traditional booth, which is essentially a three-walled room, can eat up a day that you'd rather spend in pre-show meetings with prospects or preparing for the show. Instead, try a modular booth: a set of banners, towers, back walls, and other lightweight components — that you can assemble and arrange in your booth space quickly.

2. Study the exhibitor manual.
The manual can keep you from time-wasting mistakes. For instance: If you want to distribute brochures at the show site, you might throw away hours placing them throughout the building — only to find that you're breaking the show's rules and you have to take them back. If you had read the manual, you would have seen the rules and saved yourself a lot of time. And so it goes with other aspects of the show.

3. Train your staff.
If you have to guide your assistants during a show, you won't have time to meet leads. In the days before the show, walk your assistants through tasks they'll have to handle, from chatting with passers-by to demonstrating your products. Most important, "make sure everyone on your team knows the company goals and understands what makes a qualified lead," says Marlys Arnold, host of the podcast Trade Show Insights.

4. Qualify leads.
You can lose hours chatting up attendees who don't have the budget, authority, need, or time pressure that would lead them to make purchases. Instead, Arnold says, "Plan out questions and talking points to guide the conversation. If you discover they're not a match, let them go!" Good questions to ask include:

  • Is your company facing a problem or challenge?
  • Are you here to find a product to solve it?
  • What's your role in buying the product?
  • Who else is involved?
  • How much has your company budgeted for solving the problem?
  • How soon do you need to find a solution?

5. Scan attendee badges.
The marketing company protocol 80 says, "Trade shows are becoming a little too old-school: 59% of companies are still using paper-based lead forms and business cards to collect information from attendees." It's faster to use a badge scanner or another device to pick up the information encoded into an attendee's show badge.

6. Use social media.
Facebook, Twitter, and other sites can publicize your presence while you're doing other things, like meeting leads. To save more time, create posts before the event and use social-media management tools like Hootsuite to publish them for you at pre-set times during the show. In addition, event-tech consultant Corbin Ball advises:

  • Use the event hashtag (like ‪#‎AdvMfgExpo) in your marketing.
  • Fill out your social media "about us" sections completely.
  • Cross-link your social media pages to each other.
  • Use lots of video — especially with Facebook.

Since your time is tight, we won't stuff your screen with a long conclusion. So here's a short one: Manage your time well at your next show, and you'll improve your chances of bringing home hot leads. And that's a great use of your time.