Expectations of exhibiting at a trade show for the 1st time

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Even though trade shows have been cancelled for 2020 and spring 2021, it does not mean you shouldn’t be looking to the future and planning a strategy for when they are up and running again. Keep on reading for some tips and expectations you should consider.

I spoke to Laura, founder of the fun and colourful pegboard brand Peg & Board. During our chat, we spoke about her first experience of exhibiting at Top Drawer in September 2019 and how the wholesale side of her business has grown since then.

Don’t underestimate the scale of trade shows

If you’ve ever visited a trade show or even a big fair within an exhibition centre you know how big they are and how long it takes to walk around and this is no different when you exhibit yourself. Within this huge stage, you have a small corner of your creative interpretation of your brand and you want those ‘super star’ clients to find you somehow.

Be prepared. Alongside set up and break down you are spending 8+ hours a day inside an exhibition centre without many breaks or a chance to see daylight sometimes and this can be exhausting but exhilarating at the same time.


If you see yourself as a quiet person or you have no sales experience just yet then the best thing to do before the show is to practice. Laura started Top Drawer feeling very nervous and quiet, but her confidence grew throughout and by the end, she was chatting to people in a completely different way. A top tip is to take a look around when you are at the show and see how other exhibitors are pulling in clients, some can make it look very easy but for introverts, it can be daunting.

If this is you then it’s worth practicing your ‘chat’ in the mirror, as roleplay with your partner or with the products in front of you so that when it comes down to it you will have it ingrained in your mind and it will become second nature.

Don’t be disheartened

You will probably go into your first trade show thinking you will come out with a tonne of orders, a top high street retailer, and thousands of new contacts but this is sometimes not the case. Buyers are usually looking for a specific product at these shows so don’t feel disheartened if they don’t take a closer look at yours.

In reality, you will most likely come out of your first trade show with a few orders but a lot of contacts who further down the line will hopefully place an order. It is your responsibility to follow up with these new contacts after the show and keep showing them newness so they remember you. The next time you do a show, they are more than likely going to visit and if you’ve been keeping in touch they will recognise your brand and be more likely to visit your stand.

In Summary

We are all hoping that tradeshows make a comeback in 2021 and if you are thinking about exhibiting then remember to keep this all in mind. You will spend a lot of time and money investing in your stand, the preparation, and being at the show itself so take the time to think about everything you need to succeed.

Tradeshows can be excellent for building relationships with buyers and in some cases, other brands so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get as many orders as you expected, the contact with others will make the most difference in the long run.

If you are thinking of exhibiting at a tradeshow next year then I’ve also put together a handy checklist which you can find here.

As a small business you already have the products and the knowledge of your brand but could you be doing more to grow? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a helping hand, somebody to help streamline your processes and save you time in the long run? My expertise as a mentor is in helping businesses like yours gain the confidence to sell, be more profitable, feel comfortable with your pricing strategy and be the business owner you dreamed of when you started your journey!

By working with me you will learn how to be more profitable and be a proud business owner at the same time!

Let’s have a chat today, drop me an email at therese@smallbusinesscollaborative.co.uk and I will get back to you personally.

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