How to Make an Exhibition Successful

Exhibiting at a trade show or exhibition is a significant investment for many small to medium-sized businesses, so you’ll want to make sure it generates a good ROI (Return on Investment). Just booking a space and hoping for the best isn’t the optimal strategy. So how can you make an exhibition successful? In this article, you’ll learn how to make an exhibition successful, every time.

How to Make an Exhibition Successful

There are several ways you can make an exhibition successful, including:

  • Choose the right exhibition
  • Set defined goals
  • Plan early
  • Book a good space
  • Design an eye-catching stand
  • Make your stand interactive
  • Be welcoming
  • Engage in pre-show marketing
  • Qualify leads
  • Follow up


There are many industry-specific trade shows throughout the year, choosing the best one for your business can make the difference between success and failure. It’s worth researching the audience a show attracts to make sure they are the people you want to target.

If lead generation is your main aim, a larger show might be the most suitable. However, if you want to increase brand awareness within your industry and network, a smaller, more niche show might be better.


In order to measure the success of an exhibition, you will need to set out what you are hoping to achieve. Exhibitions offer many benefits to businesses, from lead generation to sales, brand recognition and the opportunity to network. You may also be looking for new suppliers or resellers for your products. Whatever it is, have it set out clearly as measurable targets and plan how you will achieve them.


To make your exhibition successful, the earlier you start planning and organising the better. In order to secure the best space at the show, you need to be booking at least 6 months in advance.

It will also take time to design your stand, so you’ll need to allow enough time to plan it carefully in order to achieve the best result. Getting it in the diary early will also enable you to select the most appropriate members of staff to take.


Making an exhibition successful can all stem from booking a good space. One of the key factors affecting the success of an exhibition is where your stand is located in the hall. You don’t want to be on a back wall at the end of an aisle. Choosing a space with high footfall is important, so busy intersections are good, for example, close to restaurants or toilets.  

Being close to, but not actually by the entrance can also be fortuitous, people will want to move away quite quickly from a busy entrance but will then be primed to look around. Locating near a big competitor who will draw crowds can be beneficial, but you don’t want to appear inferior by comparison.

Our best advice is to visit the venue before you book to establish the best positions, that way you can book a good space early and gain an immediate advantage over your competitors.


Your exhibition stand is probably the most important factor in determining the success of an exhibition, as it’s what gives visitors their first impression of your business. You want a stand that will really attract attention and help you stand out from your competitors. Look to create something unique with large graphics, but also gets your brand across in the right way.

Being taller than other stands can be helpful, as can the clever use of exhibition stand lighting. Another tip is to not have too much text on your stand, as it could look cluttered and put people off reading it. Make sure that all logos and text are large enough to be read across the hall, and try to come up with a memorable slogan that can be included in your stand design.


Consider having TV screens or iPads to promote your products or services. These really draw attention to your stand. Giving visitors something to interact with other than just sales staff can be an effective way to entice people to your stand.

If appropriate, give demonstrations of your product, these will hopefully draw a crowd. If your product is too bulky to demonstrate, consider using virtual reality to showcase it. Research shows that the more people can interact with a product, the more likely they are to buy it.

Interactive Stand with screens


Ban staff from using mobile phones or eating on the stand, ensure they are not standing with their backs to visitors or sitting behind a desk. Make eye contact with people and smile.  Start conversations with visitors using open questions – not just ‘can I help you?’.

We recommend trying to be as engaging as possible. Train your staff prior to the show on what they should be saying about the products and company, and ensure that they are all knowledgeable enough to talk with confidence.


When you are organising an exhibition, make sure you email customers and prospects to let them know about your plans. Invite them to meet up with you there, either on the stand or in the evening.

An exhibition provides an ideal environment to talk to clients. Use social media to advertise your attendance, and link up with the hashtags used by the show organiser to promote the exhibition in order to reach more people.

You may even want to send out a press release promoting your attendance at the show and any special attractions you have planned. Pre-show marketing is vital to make an exhibition successful. Don’t forget to look for opportunities to advertise at the exhibition, whether in the show catalogue or on signage.


To save time and automate the lead taking process, use lead generation software to take visitors details. Choose a package that enables you to store extra details about the lead, as this helps to remember who they are after meeting.

Gather as much information as you can, such as; whether they are actually interested in your product/service or did they just oblige for the chance to win an iPad? You will then be able to schedule followups accordingly. Your team should know the questions to ask and the more time you spend with a hot lead, the more information you will gather, helping you eliminate any time wasters.


One of the biggest mistakes made by exhibitors is not following up the leads they get at a show. Research shows that 62% of exhibition leads are not followed up by companies. Make sure you store them all in a CRM system and contact them within 2 weeks of the exhibition to ensure it is still fresh in their minds. This is a fundamental way of making your exhibition experience more successful.

Ways to Measure The Success of a Trade Show

So how can we actually measure how successful an exhibition is, well we recommend looking at the following areas – cost per lead, return on objective (ROO), exhibition budget vs actual cost, post-show orders and sales, website and social media traffic and your return on investment (ROI).

Cost per Lead 

Work out your cost per lead by dividing the overall cost of attending a trade show by the number of leads gained.

Return on Objective (ROO) 

You need to have a list of specific goals for the trade show. They can be “soft” goals such as brand awareness, or something more quantifiable such as gaining qualified leads or the ability to showcase specific items/services to a more select audience.

Exhibit Budget vs. Actual Cost

Another metric to explore is comparing your exhibit budget to the actual cost you incurred at the exhibition. Make sure you take into account any surprise costs that cropped up. If this calculation leaves you up, there’s a chance the exhibition might have been successful.

Post-show Orders and Sales

What’s the life cycle of your selling process after a trade show?  How long does it take to turn a qualified lead into a future order or call to action?

Website and Social Media Traffic

Have you gained visitors virtually who saw you at the trade show? The more engagement you get online following an exhibition, the more successful it might have been.

Work Out the Return on Investment (ROI) 

To work out your ROI, do the following calculations:

  • Total sales value – the cost of sales = Net return
  • (Net return/cost of exhibiting) x 100 = ROI

The higher your ROI, the higher the indication that the exhibition was successful.


Exhibitions and trade shows present companies with the ideal opportunity to gain qualified leads, network, gain brand awareness and seek new partners. However, they do involve a significant financial commitment for small and medium-sized companies. We hope you’ve learned how to make an exhibition successful from the tips included in this guide.

At Quadrant2Design we are leaders in exhibition stand design, creating modular exhibition stands, custom exhibition stands and more. Contact us to find out more.