Trade fair planning from the customer’s perspective

If you want to be successful at a trade fair, you should not just focus on the trade fair days.
The foundation is already laid months earlier. Follow-up on trade fair conver-sations is also important. What sounds like a matter of course, is often lamented by many observers as a deficit with numerous exhibitors.

Trade fair presentations are often still designed from a company’s perspective, instead of focusing on customer needs. Studies show that trade visitors are less interested in events and catering and more about specific information. The Carrera track may draw in customers, but it barely presents a lasting value for the company. A cocktail bar is a good investment, only if the atmosphere is cleverly used to strike up a qualified conversation with the visitors.

The trade fair is the climax of the fiscal year. But especially in the B2B market this climax needs to be well planned – as a systematic management process. Exhibiting companies are well advised to subdivide the three phases – the pre-trade fair period, trade fair days and wrap-up – into interim goals. This way, the process can be integrated into day-to-day business.

Trade fair days are valuable

For many companies the trade fair presentation equals a singular event. What is missing is the integration into the marketing concept. Synergies with other marketing activities remain unused and the important question is: What are we trying to accomplish with this trade fair presentation? Often you hear: “Maintaining customer contacts“ and “doing something for our image.“ Yet with such general statements, a subsequent performance review is difficult.

The trade fair is a marketplace. Just like at a farmer’s market, the competitor is standing right next door. And just like at a farmer’s market, the trade fair provides the biggest chance for a sale – or at least for its initiation. The goal should be to improve the number and quality of sales contacts. Trade fair days are valuable and should be well planned. Invitations, scheduling of topics, follow up and setting up actual appointments – that is the homework that needs to be done during the pre-trade fair period. However, it needs to be clear early on which novelties are to be presented during trade fair days. These do not always need to be new products, because new user experiences are also interesting. There is also no need to present the entire company portfolio at a trade fair booth. Less is often more. Cleverly placed accents grab people’s attention.


Source: Grüger
Body language at the trade fair booth

Throughout the year, sales associates need to make phone calls to arrange appointments with their customers. On trade fair days the customers and potential buyers come to your trade fair booth. Yet often the associates at the booth appear not to be very motivated. Body language frequently tells you everything: Instead of approaching the visitors which briefly stop in front of the booth, many booth associates just wait and see, often even while talking with each other, so that a visitor feels rather like an intruder. If you stand stoically with folded arms at the stand-up table, prefer to talk on your cell phone and avoid eye contact, you will rarely be approached by visitors.

It often happens that employees get “posted“ to trade fairs. Ill prepared, their ignorance is quickly revealed during the first few questions. Here the company failed to motivate and qualify its own people and have them participate in the trade fair planning. A brief campaign will not work here. Workshops, sales guides and role playing can help to prepare the trade fair team properly. Brochure displays, posters and video screens are nothing compared to a trade fair conversation.

When products of competitors become more and more alike, it is the people that make the difference. The trade fair is a marketplace for people, not just for products. Your own team is more important than a new and fancy trade fair booth or lavish catering.

After the trade fair is before the trade fair

After the trade fair, conversation minutes are evaluated, but this only reflects the company’s perspective. How did the customer receive the presentation? This is the crucial question. How can we improve? This should be the next question with the next trade fair presentation in mind. You can ask the customers how they liked the trade fair visit overall and your trade fair presentation in particular. This way, marketing does not just have a topic of conversation for their next call, but also the chance to gather valuable knowledge. Web 2.0 with its consumer ratings portals and user comments will change customer relationship management.

René Schellbach,


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