Show and Sell

Here are the tricks of the trade show circuit and how to expo your way to profits


While Perkins had immediate results, other entrepreneurs may find that it takes persistence and patience before the leads pay off. Rolle spent two years following up on a lead she got at the Virginia Regional Minority Supplier Development Council trade show. She was determined to get a contract drafting floor plans for Alliant Techsystems, managers of a Virginia military base.

After talking to the firm’s buyer on the trade show floor, Rolle says, “Every time I saw her at a show, I’d talk to her. I sat next to her at banquets and chatted her up at receptions. When the show would end, I’d send faxes and newsletters keeping her informed about our company.” Finally, Rolle was asked to bid for a job. Now, Cadtech has a half-million dollar contract to draw plans of the facility showing the base’s compliance with OSHA regulations.

Says Rolle: “If you’re at a trade show, there’s no reason you should walk away without a sale or some contact for follow-up business.”

Useful Info of Expos
Here are a few resources to help make your next — or first-trade show a success:

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has the world’s largest database on the exhibition industry. CEIR publishes reports, facts and figures on exhibit industry trends. Visit CEIR on the Web at for a look at some of those materials. To obtain the brochure, The Power of Exhibitions: Maximize the Role of Exhibitions in Your Marketing Mix, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to CEIR at 4350 East West Highway, Suite 401, Bethesda, MD 20814; 301-907-7626.

The U.S. Department of Commerce helps businesses interested in international exhibitions select high-quality trade shows within their industry through its Trade Fair Certification Program. For more information about this program and other forms of assistance, call the U.S. Department of Commerce Trade Information Center at 800-872-8723.

Exhibitor Magazine ( has an online resource for trade show professionals that contains industry research, case studies and magazine articles. It also features an extensive list of books on trade show marketing.

The Trade Show News Network ( is another online resource that provides trade show updates, information about vendors, plus ideas and suggestions.

Two good reads on the subject are Guerilla Trade Show Selling by Jay Conrad Levinson, Mark S.A. Smith and Orvel Ray Wilson (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95), and Exhibit Marketing: A Success Guide for Managers by Edward A. Chapman Jr. (McGrawHill, $29.95).

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