4 Strategies to Increase Engagement at Trade Shows

Maura N.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
Filmmakers and professionals attending tradeshows can benefit from both the content and the contacts made, giving them the opportunity to gain knowledge and connect with other peers. To maximize engagement, it is important to have a plan and go into the show with a specific goal in mind.

Here are four strategies you can use to get the most out of tradeshows:

Learn the Layout

Before arriving at the show, research all that is available. This includes looking over the exhibitor list, attending networking sessions, and familiarizing yourself with the event layout. Create a personalized itinerary to make sure you don’t miss out on any exhibitors or activities; this will save you time and energy and will help you stay on track throughout the event. Additionally, research the different exhibitors who will be present. Make sure to look over the list of new companies and those who have attended before. Read up on their successes, technologies, and products to further establish their credibility. Research the speakers and panels that will be occurring throughout the show. Read up on their expertise and life stories in order to make the most of each presentation. Research the different activities, such as contests, and team-building exercises, which can be valuable learning experiences.

Know Your Goal

Figure out your main goal and focus your energy on achieving it. If your goal is to find a new partner, spend more time meeting with exhibitors who could fit that description. Having a plan in mind will help you make the most of the show, rather than wasting your time on activities that don’t contribute to your goal. For example, if your goal is to expand your customer reach, focus more on networking and attending seminars and classes related to marketing and sales. If your goal is to meet industry experts and build connections, make sure you attend speaker panels and try to arrange meetings with the speakers. You could also try to introduce yourself to the vendors you’re interested in, rather than just grabbing their business cards. However, if your goal is to increase your knowledge and gain new insights, try to attend workshops and activities where you can learn something new. By setting a goal and allocating your energy accordingly, you can make the most of the show and come away with tangible results.

Build Relationships

Tradeshows provide a great opportunity to make contacts, so be sure to use your time wisely and make the most of each meeting. Try to keep conversations brief yet personal, understanding that each person is there for similar reasons. Take note of the new contacts you make, and be prepared to keep in touch. Tradeshows provide a great opportunity to make important professional connections. Attendees can network face-to-face with potential business contacts, customers, and even vendors, who may provide valuable input on products or services. Whether it’s striking up a conversation with the people in the booth next to you, or setting up formal meetings ahead of time, it’s important to use your time wisely in order to get the most out of each interaction. Make sure to keep conversations brief yet relevant and be prepared to exchange contact information. This way, it will be easier to follow up and create a lasting connection. And don’t forget to bring business cards. They can go a long way in keeping track of the new contacts you make at the show.

Have Fun

Events can be quite long and exhausting, so it’s important to take time to relax and enjoy this experience! Consider attending a party or activity related to the event, even if the invite sounds random or unimportant. You never know who or what you might find! For example, if you’re attending a conference for filmmakers, take some time to grab lunch with a fellow filmmaker and hear about their life. Or if you’re at a tech event, try attending the nightly happy hour to network and exchange ideas. Networking events can also help you make connections and even potential business leads.
Don’t be afraid to engage with people you find interesting. It's a great way to build relationships and create lasting memories. Allow yourself a few moments of relaxation and fun within the duration of the event. Take breaks between sessions to stretch and walk around the area; try out a portion of a recommended local cuisine; or spend time outdoors in the sun.

These four simple tips can help you maximize engagement at tradeshows. It will give you a better chance of making significant connections and learning more about the industry in a relatively short time. Don’t forget to have fun at your next event. Even if it feels like a full workday, Reward yourself with moments of rest and relaxation. Based on the event and your schedule, you could even plan a mini-adventure for yourself!


Staff member
Business Cards:
Avoid small fonts that are hard to read.
Avoid dark backgrounds that you cannot write notes on.
Include a small photo so people can associate your face to the name.
Keep the back side blank to accommodate notes.

Create a Signature Look:
When networking a busy venue such as a tradeshow or festival, VIP’s are deluged by students and wanna-be’s. Stand out and be memorable by creating a signature look for yourself. A unique style of wardrobe or accessories that serves as your “look”. Wear that same “look” every day, so that VIP’s will remember you from the days before and associate your business card with you.
Example: Fred Ginsburg wears a cowboy hat which is easily spotted and recognizable at NAB and NAMM.

When meeting VIP’s:
Don’t be just another fan.
Never ask for an autograph or selfie.
Ask well structured questions based on in-depth research.
Don’t expect a job offer or invitation; but ask if you can contact the VIP after the event to follow up on your conversation.

Trade Shows:
Learn the new technology.
Meet dealers and factory reps whom you can contact in the future for info, training, etc.
Always introduce yourself to people standing around you at the booths; they are end-users and potential employers.
Don’t try to see everything; it is not a scavenger hunt.
Spend lots of time in a few booths so that you can really learn something useful.
Remember your “signature look”, so that people may recognize you later on.
Bring water & snacks to the exhibit hall.
Many vendors host hospitality suites up in the local hotels.
Avoid the large “everyone’s invited” after-parties; they are noisy & crowded. Instead, seek out the smaller “users groups” functions; more likely to learn stuff & network with new people.

Travel Tips:
Preregister EARLY for trade shows. Most shows offer free registration to Exhibit Halls.
Last minute registration costs a fee.
Be careful booking a hotel with a travel site, unless you know their cancellation policy (Expedia is good.) Otherwise, reserve directly with the hotel.
Hotels will match internet pricing.
Hotels will usually allow cancellations up to 24 or 48 hrs before, without any cancellation fee! (But make sure your reservation is cancellable!)
If you cancel or change hotels, no problem!
Always book your reservations ASAP, even if you are not sure about attending. It is easy enough to cancel up to a few days before, but you will have to pay through the nose if you try to book a room at the last minute.


Active member
These are some really good tips, Fred, Maura. Thank you for your comments! I have the problem of being overwhelmed when I meet VIPs and I do act like another fan.