Effective Pre-Show Trade Show and Event Promotion

July 15, 2019

Kajsa Bjoern

Kajsa (pronounced KIE-sa) Bjoern is a Trade Show Marketing Specialist at Skyline Exhibits San Diego. Originally from Sweden, Kajsa joined Skyline’s San Diego team in 2018 and has since worked to help exhibitors succeed through continuous communication, strategic planning and evaluations. 

A lot of time and money go into your exhibit. But are you doing everything you can before the show to ensure your show presence earns a return on investment? A majority of attendees already have a list of what booths to visit, so you have to ensure that your target market knows that you will be there and what you have to offer them. Effective pre-show marketing will help draw traffic to your booth, as well as maximize the qualified leads you gather at each event.

Choosing Promotional Outlets 

Email and Social

Social media and email marketing form the backbone of most exhibitors’ pre-show marketing efforts. Keep in mind, though, that the months prior to a trade show or event are definitely not the time to begin building an email list or growing your follower count. Instead, continually encourage prospects to sign up for your newsletter and post engaging social content, which will result in you organically growing your audience.

Digital Advertising

Search engine and social platforms make it easy to set up your own ad campaigns, however, it can also be a huge cost that doesn’t earn ROI if it’s not done right. Trade show ads need to target not just those who are interested in your company, but also the subset of that audience that plans to attend the show. To make sure you reach this group, you need to focus on “custom audience” targeting – i.e., uploading customer or registrant email lists and target these individuals directly. Also consider retargeting campaigns.

Crafting Your Message

The first step to planning your promotional calendar involves determining your goals for the event. Then determine how to achieve those goals, which could be something like increase booth traffic, maximize attendance at an event presentation, or pre-scheduled private.

Scheduling Promotions

One to Two Months Before the Show

Provide details on your exhibit, including your booth number and your planned activities during the show. Invite attendees to make an appointment if they’d like a private demo or consultation. If you have a new product or service you’ll be rolling out, this is the good time to share a short teaser video to pique everyone’s interest.

Two-to-Three Weeks Before the Show

Mid-campaign messaging should reinforce what you’ve shared previously, reminding people of any looming promotional deadlines and eligibility requirements. Since this is the timeframe in which attendees will be planning their itineraries, it’s a key time to reach out personally to contacts and schedule one-on-one time with them at the event.

The Days Before the Show

Send a final email to remind everyone of your booth number and encourage them to visit. Personally reach out to anyone with which you have a planned appointment to tell them you’re looking forward to speaking with them onsite.


This is a good time to get personal and timely with your social media posts, showing photos of your staff traveling to the event, setting up the booth, etc. You should begin following the show hashtag and use it to interact with other attendees.

Measuring Success

Common key performance indicators for pre-show promotions include:

  • Email open rates and click-through-rates
  • Social media engagement stats for any show-related posts
  • Pre-show event or giveaway registrations
  • In-booth redemptions of coupons or other materials sent out in your pre-show marketing
  • Website visits immediately before, during and after the show

Your pre-show marketing budget may be limited. But by honing in on your best prospects and focusing your efforts on platforms with the best ROI, you can stretch your marketing dollars and better ensure an effective trade show presence.


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