Trade shows offer businesses a chance to showcase their services and meet potential clients in a competitive, yet extremely beneficial environment. While it’s never easy to set up shop alongside competitors, performing well at a trade show can lead to noticeable increases in sales.

Like many facets of running a business, your performance and comfort level at trade shows improves with time. Running a booth for the first time generates feelings of anxiety. Between the logistics of travel plans, setting up your booth, worrying about your display’s appeal and interacting with customers, there’s no shortage of stress when it comes to attending a trade show. Luckily, there are several ways first-time trade show participants can hit the ground running and turn their first experience into an instant success.

Understand the basics

You never want to go into a trade show blind. Learning, and understanding, the different rules of the trade show should be your first step. The rules for each venue and show vary, which means you should start with this step for every trade show you attend. Thoroughly review the list of rules and regulations to ensure you don’t face unwelcome surprises when you arrive to the show.

“When [exhibiting] at a trade show for the first time, it’s important to communicate directly with the trade show staff to understand what your booth comes with and what you have to pay extra for,” said Nellie Alkap, CEO of “Some shows provide carpet; others you have to buy it [for] extra. Some provide a table and chairs; others you need to source. Every show is different, so don’t assume that your booth will come with the necessities. Have your team and the trade show staff on the same page so there are no last-minute issues when you arrive.”

If you’re having concerns imagining what a trade show atmosphere is like, you might want to go to a different show with similar participants and wander around the different areas.

“I always recommend [attending] a show as an attendee first before committing to a new show,” said Jacqueline Voss, the director of marketing and business development at Russo’s Restaurants. “That will give you an idea of the attendees and what other vendors are doing to attract attendees to their booth.”

Attract attention

When it comes to drawing people to your booth, it’s about standing out. Handing out flyers and business cards may boost exposure of your business a little bit, but nearly every booth will have these basics. Ask yourself the question, “What can we do to get noticed?”

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