Business development · 10 May 2017

An entrepreneur’s guide to networking at trade shows

Networking at trade shows
Effective networking at trade shows can generate new sales leads and future business for your company
For the first in a new Business Advice series covering the essential aspects of networking for every successful entrepreneur, we take a look at how to approach trade shows and exhibitions as the owner of a small company.

Trade shows are a vital opportunity for small business owners to develop new contacts, get a brand noticed and keep up to date with their industry. From national business exhibitions to industry-focused events, Britain’s trade show industry appears as healthy as ever and remains an important networking tool.

To find out the most effective ways of generating business and networking at trade shows and exhibitions we asked a panel of small business owners and industry experts to provide their top tips for entrepreneurs.

Create a lasting first impression

Search engines and social media platforms have emerged as the dominant way businesses and customers connect, but there is still nothing that makes a lasting first impression like the passing of a business card to a new contact.

Business Advice asked Chad Jennings, chief product officer at business card designer MOO, to find out why the simple card still holds a unique power in the online world.

“Business cards have been around for over 300 years, they’re one of the world’s oldest networking technologies. But, they’re just as relevant in today’s digital age as they were back then, he said.

As the owner of a small business, your company’s brand and own personality are entwined. The stronger your personal impression is on those you meet at trade shows and exhibitions, the better. Jennings explained the power of a business card in supporting the face? of a company.

while there are a range of digital networking sites and tools, there’s nothing quite as valuable as face-to-face interaction and making a really memorable first impression. Business cards, when beautifully designed, can also help to bring to life the story of a business and the individual.

Organisers willoften provide barcode scanners at events, enabling attendees to log the basic details of each contact digitally.


Kelly Edwards, a marketing professional at exhibition supplier Marler Hayley, told Business Advice that networking at trade shows and exhibitions puts you face-to-face? with potential customers they can give you direct feedback and are likely to already have an interest in what your company offers.

unlike a high street, most people visiting an exhibition are looking for products and services. They want to be engaged and they are a captive audience. Nearly everybody in the room at an exhibition could be a potential customer if you align your customers against visitors to the right event, Edwards explained.

A study into exhibition design uncovered the negative impact of a stand that fails to communicate who the brand is and what the business does.

The most common pitfalls were an overload of information, the use of photos instead of graphics and an absence of a call to action over 80 per cent of exhibition displays were failing to provoke any kind of response from potential customers.

Ten essential tips for networking at trade shows

For Max Wiseberg, an appearance at Brighton’s Natural Trade Show brought his unique hay fever balm HayMax to Waitrose shelves. In fact, he even made a head-start by contacting the appropriate buyer beforehand.

We asked Wiseberg to leverage his experience and provide readers with his top pointers for networking at trade shows and exhibitions.

  1. Smile
  1. Stand up
don’t sit down unless you are in a meeting with a visitor to your stand.

  1. Hide your phone
Only look at it when you are away from your stand. While you are on the stand you are 100 per cent available to people walking past.

  1. don’t let people walk past
Look at the people walking past make eye contact and smile. Engage with them. Get some giveaways printed (pens, post-its etc.) and give them to people walking past your stand. Print more than you think you will need if you don’t give them away you can always send them out with other communications after the show, but you don’t want to run out at the show. When they take them you get a chance to engage with them.

  1. Be happy, enthusiastic and ready to answer any question about your product
  1. Have plenty of product available for demonstrating and sampling
  1. Have a show-only offer
Make it special.Make it very visible. Reward people for visiting your stand they spent time and effort in getting there too so here’s your way of helping them justify attending the show.

  1. Network



Praseeda Nair is an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.