4 Things Every Startup Should Do Before Their First Trade Show

By Catherine Hess,
business.com writer
Feb 21, 2019
Image Credit: Beer5020/Shutterstock

Ready to attend your first trade show as a startup company? Do these four things first.

Trade shows are a wonderful way for startup companies to enhance their brand image and acquire new customers. However, as new businesses, they're often hesitant to enter the world of trade shows. There are so many questions, fears and concerns that first-timers have, but it doesn't have to be intimidating. 

Here are four smart things to consider before you attend your first trade show as a startup.

1. Choose your show wisely.

A startup likely has a lot less capital than the big players in the industry. The big guys can afford to attend 20 trade shows a year, whether the shows really produce anything of benefit for them or not. In some cases, they attend just because people might wonder about the company's health if they're not there. However, as a startup, you need to focus on the trade show or trade shows that will provide the biggest benefit to you. Choose one or two, depending on your available capital, and invest in that to start.

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2. Choose your booth carefully.

Depending on the trade show, booth space could be very expensive or very cheap. It's tempting to invest in a large booth space, but that means you need a more elaborate and likely more expensive exhibit to fill that space. If your startup is brand-new, it's easiest to play it safe and choose a 10 x 10 exhibit or a 10 x 20 exhibit. If you spend too much on a trade show booth space, then you could end up blowing your budget for the year and maybe a couple of people's salaries on an exhibit to fill that space. 

3. Design your exhibit well in advance.

When you work in advance, you can take advantage of any discount pricing, and you have ample time to design and redesign items. Being the early bird helps save a lot when it comes to exhibits. When you're prepared, it helps keep the costs down so that you can remain competitive in your space without going broke your first time out. 

4. Be mindful of who you bring.

Who you bring to a trade show is just as important as your booth and your exhibit design. You'll want to bring a subject matter expert, likely a salesperson who is trained on how to approach people and draw them into a conversation to determine whether they're a likely prospect. 

Startups should really only bring bare minimal staff, as the costs can add up if you bring many people – there's hotel, transportation, meals, per diems and overtime pay if the individuals are hourly employees. There are many things to consider regarding who you bring to a trade show, so think about it carefully. 

Startup companies have unique challenges that larger competitors don't have. As such, they should plan out the details and be very mindful of the who, what and where every step of the way. That way, they can be successful at the trade show and continue to exhibit in the future. 


Catherine is the Senior Marketing Manager for Absolute Exhibits. With over a decade of experience in B2B Marketing, Catherine enjoys writing about all things Marketing, Business, and more. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys life at the beach with her dog.
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