September 29, 2022
By Cvent

The return of in-person trade shows has some planners and marketers on their heels. After all, we’re talking about one of the largest strategic business development and lead generation channels for their organization. And a lot has changed since the pre-pandemic era. 

We’re now in a new world of multiple event formats with new challenges arising every day. But fear not, we’ve got you covered. We went to two of our internal trade show experts to get their best practices when it comes to the modern world of trade shows. 

Below, you find our Q&A with Cvent’s Robin Clark, Senior Manager, Event Marketing and Trade Shows, and Sohil Adyanthaya, Assistant Team Lead, Product Marketing for their expertise. 

capture leads at your trade show

Lead Generation

Question: How early should you reach out to prospective attendees?  


We take a phased approach to our promotion. First, as early as several months out from an event we’re attending, we’ll include a mention of where we will be in upcoming months to relevant audiences. Then, 2-3 weeks out from an event, we’ll begin targeted outreach via digital, social, and email to confirmed lists of attendees. We typically see a spike in responses and interest within that final week pre-event.


Email outreach can be done around six weeks out to send them a gentle reminder about the show. Cold calls can start about 4-5 weeks out. About 2 weeks before the show, start scheduling appointments, starting any sooner may not be best because the show is not top of mind for them at that time.

Question: How do you maximize traffic at your booth?


Pre-show, we’re active, planning ways to secure traffic. As with any marketing approach, you must find the right mix for the audience and the show. We drive booth traffic in myriad ways: promoting 1:1 pre-set appointments, offering in-booth gifts, running an in-booth activation such as a coffee bar or happy hour, spinning up a raffle, including entertainment or a fun activity or contest, and more!


I’d also add a few things you can do while on-site for one, an attractive booth design and layout. Consider if there are multiple points of entry/exit. Or is it single entry? Is there a theme? 

Sales teams/booth staff must be engaging and welcoming and trained up and made familiar beforehand. Touch screens and interactivity, live demos, get creative!

Question: What are the secrets to driving more pre-set appointments?


Know your value! Being able to cut through the noise and position your brand above the rest is so important. Every exhibitor is trying to do the same thing—so why should attendees listen to you above the rest? Once we’ve nailed our message and tone, we decide which channels will best convert to pre-sets. Sometimes it’s a matter of sales outreach; other times it’s an email from our executives. You must know your audience and understand what makes them tick.


Tactically, I’d say identify your ideal persona (what kind of people do you want to meet at this show? Be specific about who they are and how we are solving their needs). Facilitate appointments by offering additional meeting space “away” from the trade show. Set appointments at unusual times to make them less likely to forget (10:00 pm). Using a dedicated appointment setting tool and a consistent appointment setting process (UA) helps.

Question: Should you invest in the list?


If reliable, yes. This type of investment will more than pay for itself when it results in meaningful on-site conversations. The key to any trade show is standing out. Sometimes that’s accomplished on-site with in-booth gimmicks, giveaways, activities, or even just a compelling message. But sometimes you need that pre-event “oomph” to separate yourself from the pack.

Event Check In

Question: Explain the importance of a consistent tool for each show so reps know how to use it and leads are not lost.


Incredibly important. There’s an inevitable handoff that takes place when attending trade shows, and that’s from that of the trade show team to their onsite personnel. Depending on the volume of events you attend, creating consistent, predictable, digestible processes for your onsite staff is critical. And that’s where tech comes in.

Not only does it pave the way for you as the trade show manager to train your staff and set clear expectations across every level of your org, but it also creates a consistent process for monitoring tech adoption across all events—throughout each event—and course-correct if necessary. Do you see your reps aren’t scanning? You can address this in real-time. Do you notice lead qualification questions and notes aren’t thorough? You can put a stop to that in a snap. 


Removing the need for reps to learn a new system each show will save significant time and energy. Using a single source of truth that syncs with the reps and their managers’ calendars helps everyone stay on the right track, and ideally, the tool will always flow key data into a CRM or marketing automation platform. You want a tool that integrates with CRM and MAP for automatic lead upload so they will not get lost and everything is synced with each other. This also helps for speedy follow-up.

Lead Qualification

Question: How do you rank prospects?


This is fluid. You can ask several qualifying questions that tell you if they’re ready to buy, when they’d be ready to buy, if they’re familiar with our solution, etc. But more than anything, lead qualification is about listening and understanding the business cases of the prospects you engage with and be a partner to them in identifying solutions.


Create custom qualification questions to assign weighted point values to certain actions to determine who was the most engaged. Qualification questions include, “does this person have a business need?” “What is their budget?” etc.

general view of people at trade show booths

Lead Activation

Question: Any tips on integrating with a CRM and synching with Salesforce?


At Cvent, for example, we can work with a customer’s sales engineer to build custom integrations to many major SaaS apps in our Integration hub. Attendee data like event data, contact data, and qualification data all will flow to tools like Salesforce, Marketo, Oracle, Eloqua, Hubspot, etc. The key is finding a software solution that has these integrations.

Question: What are some best practices for post-event follow-up?


Immediate! And with the use of real-time technology and insights, you often will find great opportunities to follow up during the event! You might be in touch with someone on day one of an event and could follow up with them to reconnect on day three for a happy hour—that’s the type of immediate value consistent tech affords.

But strictly speaking post-event, you want to be in touch immediately and thoughtfully. It’s about beating the competition’s follow-up but also proving that you and your org heard and processed what the attendee had to see. Why qualification is so important!


For more trade show insights, we invite you to check out our on-demand webinar!



Cvent is a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider with more than 4,500 employees and nearly 21,000 customers worldwide.
Dummies Ebook Bundle
Dummies Ebook Bundle
5 tactical guides for your events
Subscribe to our newsletter