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Next Gen Trade Shows: Maximize Your Opportunities

Next Gen Trade Shows: Maximize Your Opportunities

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Trade shows have undergone a massive digital transformation. In 2022 and beyond, marketers and the organizations they support that can track and measure multiple program metrics across technologies can justify their organizational investment by showing the true value of an event.

Historically, events have proven to be a key marketing activity. In fact, 74% of marketers agree that events were their most important demand generation tactic (Forrester Research).

As we move towards more live events post-pandemic, one of the largest strategic business development and lead generation channels for your organization has undergone a digital transformation.

Despite the effectiveness of events like trade shows, marketers are only scratching the surface of the possible ROI—both for themselves and their organizations.


Strategies for the New Trade Show Landscape

Measuring satisfaction is a key performance indicator (KPI) for event marketers. And while this qualitative feedback can provide some insight into the success of your events, you must elevate your strategies to clearly demonstrate financial return if you are to maximize the impact of your events—and get recognized for your efforts.

“What gets measured, gets managed,” so the saying goes. Taking your program (and impact) to the next level means harnessing quantitative data, in concert with qualitative feedback, to clearly understand what is working and why, as well as how to optimize.

Now, let’s look at the other KPIs that will help you truly get a full 360-degree view of your trade show.

Essential Trade Show KPIs for the Modern Marketer

We’ve boiled this down to a short list. But tracking and reporting on these KPIs should give you a clearer and more comprehensive view of the effectiveness of your trade shows. And the best part? It’ll allow you to better prove the value of your programs (and demonstrate your personal impact).

  • Appointments: the total number of appointments at your trade show is an effective KPI. Why? Because this clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of your pre-event marketing activities, your sales team’s effectiveness, and overall messaging and event strategy.
  • Booth Traffic: volume is key here. Check-ins provide clear insights into your booth and sales team effectiveness. We know there are other factors at play (attendance, booth location) but when comparing total check-ins to qualified leads, this helps you understand the quality of the show’s attendee pool.
  • MQLs/SQLs: qualified leads are a true marker that help provide insight into the quality of the overall trade show attendees and are the first step in determining your overall ROI.
  • Opportunities and Pipeline:  as marketers, we love to show how many opps we’ve generated for the sales team. They provide insight into the business potential of the contacts made as well as the effectiveness of your follow-up.  
  • Revenue Generated: a favorite of the C-Suite. This demonstrates the quality of your opportunities and the top-line financial impact of the events. It’s critical to track revenue generated so that you can measure ROI.
  • ROI: Return-on-investment is the magic number. The cost of your event compared to the revenue generated. You may also choose to include qualitative insights in your reports (quotes from sales team) to help paint a picture of softer ROI—such as brand awareness.

Using Tech Integrations to Power Your Efforts

Technology integrations act as sort of a super-supplement to your existing tech. Their impact can be all the difference in the world. Companies that integrate their event management, marketing, and sales technologies can potentially see a massive increase in revenue versus those with disconnected technology.

As you review your current set-up regarding the tech you own and integrations, it’s important to invest in and integrate platforms that support key sales and marketing activities — scheduling, promotion, follow-up, etc. — for pre-, during-, and post-show activities. We’ve identified a few key integrations that will support your efforts:

  • Customer Relationship Management—CRM: This acts as your key hub for all customer data and enables effective tracking and follow-up.
  • Event Management Platform: An integrated, all-in-one platform to manage budgets, resources, reporting, content, and beyond.
  • Lead Capture: a consistent, easy to use, lead capture tool that is used at all your event ensures all leads are captured and tracked.
  • Appointment-Setting: Find a single tool to set and manage your trade show booth visits and other appointments. This will drastically reduce administration and increases lead volumes.
  • Marketing Automation Platform (MAP): in a time of low staffing, automating key marketing activities is critical. This tech also allows for a more personalized, relevant nurture steam that increases opportunities and revenue.

Booth Differentiators

Sometimes, all the booths at a trade show remind us of the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In a word, “overwhelming” to attendees. But our goal as marketers is to overcome the overwhelming and stand out amongst our rivals on the floor.

Here are a few tips to consider as you plan out your booth strategy:

  • Be clear. Clearly tell people what you do and how you help so that they know they should stop and pay attention.
  • Be different. In a world where attendees visit only 14% of all booths, standing out and making an impact are the difference between driving traffic in droves and blending in with all the rest.
  • Use a theme. In a crowded marketplace, using a theme throughout your communications makes you easier to remember.
  • Use storytelling. Stories allow us to experience things without experiencing them. When we use a story to sell, we help people experience the new world they’ll create when they invest in our products and services.
  • Create a temporary workspace. The average attendee doesn’t spend much time at any one booth. By turning your booth into a temporary workspace you’ll extend that time and your conversation.
  • Have a call to action (CTA). Don’t leave attendees guessing as to how they should interact with you. Have a clear call to action to ensure there is a next step.

Post Trade Show Follow-Up

Post show follow-up is where you transform opportunities into dollars. It’s also where many organizations fail to produce the return they deserve. Most leads generated at events are never contacted. What’s worse, most companies wait way too long to make its first attempt to call a lead. Categorizing your leads (A, B, C, etc.) will help you prioritize “hot” vs. “warm” and “cold.”

Categorizing is extremely important as data show that many times the first company to present a solution usually wins the deal. Regardless of other factors. The simple A-B-C three-tiered strategy will help ensure timely, personalized, and relevant follow-up that will help you win more deals.


Optimizing and exhibiting the value of your trade shows has only grown more difficult and complex. By honing your strategies, employing technology solutions, and following the steps outlined above, your marketing efforts will take a giant leap in the right direction.

Because, by clearly demonstrating that your events are driving sales and contributing to the overall business goals, you’ll be in an optimal position to get recognized (and rewarded) for your trade show ROI.

Read more about how to power your trade shows in Cvent’s “Ultimate Guide to Trade Show Marketing.”