How to Make Attending a Trade Show Worth Your Time (And Money)

Is it worth it to attend a trade show or conference? When you utilize these marketing strategies, it can be.

Published on 7 September, 2022 | Last modified on 21 September, 2022
trade show conference booths marketing

The benefits of attending various business events — from conferences to trade shows to client meetings — can be great. Your company can raise brand awareness with sponsored branded merchandise, generate sales leads with a booth, and strengthen client relationships at networking happy hours. 

Yet these events can be expensive just to attend, let alone be a sponsor or exhibitor. Between registration costs, hotel and food, sponsorship packages, and more, companies could be looking at at least thousands of dollars per person to attend. Not to mention the time spent at these events are technically lost hours for them to do their normal business duties. 

So before you look at the events calendar for the coming year and decide which you or your employees will attend, consider the following strategies to ensure you’ll get a return on your investment, stay on budget, and make the time spent at the events worthwhile. 

Be Picky About Which Events You Attend 

There are thousands of marketing events being held each year, with a hundred of them being applicable to you and your team, but attending all of them isn’t likely a worthwhile decision. 

Sure, networking is important, but that can be done at any event or simply on LinkedIn. So before you hit “register” on the next conference sign up webpage, do your research and see if it will be worth the cost and time. 

Things to think about: 

  • What’s the theme of the event, and is it truly relevant to your business? 
  • Who are the speakers, what are they speaking about, and will it be a worthwhile learning experience for you?
  • What other companies will be attending and/or sponsoring the event? Potential customers, rival companies? 

Once you’ve researched the above, check out the costs. If it looks like it will be a fruitful event for your team, your budget for buying plane tickets, paying for hotels and food, plus the cost to attend the conference itself may be higher. 

If you’re planning to sponsor or exhibit, the budget will need to be significantly larger. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget, it’s likely not possible to have a booth at every event this year, so choose ones that not only fit in budget, but meet the above criteria to make it worthwhile.

And if you can, speak to prior years’ event sponsors and ask them about their experience or ask for case studies from the event runner.  

Schedule Networking in Advance  

Don’t wing it! Showing up to an event blind can be a risky move, but if you connect with fellow attendees in advance, you can set up worthwhile meetings to help advance your business. Conference producers usually have attendee lists available, along with their contact information.

In addition to RSVPing to post-conference happy hours, schedule pre-speaking engagement coffees and lunches throughout the time you’ll be at the event. By booking meetings in advance, you won’t leave the networking to chance. 

If budgets allow, you can also plan sales enablement events for your team. Potential customers love unique event experiences and can help keep you top of mind when next year’s budgets start to be spent. Utilize social media event promotion as a free way to invite existing and soon-to-be customers.

Social media event marketing is often overlooked for business events, but can be an affordable tool to balance the rest of your event marketing collateral costs.

Save Money on Travel

Meetings and conferences in your hometown are easier to justify because of the lower overall costs, but sometimes the most worthwhile events will require planes, trains, or automobiles. 

If you need to convince your boss that the trip will be worthwhile, make sure you include how you’ll be saving money on travel. Utilize corporate discounts, share an Airbnb with a colleague, and use cost-saving travel websites like Hotwire or Skiplagged. 

And, of course, register for events early to get early bird discounts! Depending on the conference, you can sometimes reach out to organizers or other sponsors to ask if they have free or discounted tickets for your company. It never hurts to ask.

When you lower the cost of the entire package, your ROI immediately goes up.

Print Marketing Materials On Demand

When you’re meandering through the halls of a trade show, which companies and services do you remember the most? The ones that stood out the most likely had high quality print materials, plus takeaways like flyers, brochures, business cards, and cool promotional products (aka SWAG).

So when you’re brainstorming event booth design ideas or marketing materials for events, keep event collateral top of mind. But make sure you don’t purchase more than you need — by printing marketing materials on demand, you won’t be wasting money on unused materials. There are event printing services, like Mimeo, that specialize in on demand printing, as well as producing high-quality event signage printing and branded event merchandise.

You should have branded items for events, whether you’re sponsoring or not. As an attendee, you’ll want to print business cards, flyers, brochures, or even post cards to hand out to prospects and increase brand awareness. 

If you’ll have your own table or booth or will be hosting something, you may need display signs, tabletop signs, and various event poster sizes in addition to the above mentioned print marketing materials. 

Whether you need ideas for booths at events, event poster printing, or event merchandise ideas, Mimeo can help you prepare for all situations no matter which conference, trade show, or meeting you’re attending. 

Plan Your Post-Event Strategy

And finally, don’t let all your hard work go to waste once you’ve taken your name tag off. Follow up with prospects and clients you met, create an email campaign for fellow attendees, or build an internal presentation to educate your colleagues about what you learned. 

Making the most of your time and money at an event will always depend on the return on investment you get after you leave. While conferences are meant to be educational, they are first and foremost a tool to grow your pipeline and your business. By following these tips — and following through with leads — your time and money spent on attending various events will be worthwhile. 

Mimeo Marketing Team

Mimeo is a global online print provider with a mission to give customers back their time. By combining front and back-end technology with a lean production model, Mimeo is the only company in the industry to guarantee your late-night print order will be produced, shipped, and delivered by 8 am the next morning. For more information, visit mimeo.com and see how Mimeo’s solutions can help you save time today.

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