Canadian Rental Service

At Your Service: Trade show dos and don’ts

By Russ Dantu   

Features Shows

Make the most of these great opportunities.

Let’s talk trade shows! I am a true believer that trade shows can not only help you find new leads and close more business but also check out what the competition is doing. I know of several companies that only do trade shows to find new business and they’ve been successful for many years. I highly recommend them as a way to build your rental business, but you need to do them right. Here are some dos and don’ts.

1) Pre-order carpet, tables or any other decor way ahead of time if you are renting them. Show decorators charge a different price if you order something on-site as they have to have extra staff there to handle all the last minute orders. It can be very expensive.

2) If you are buying a pop-up booth or banner stand, do your homework. There are some very cheap suppliers out there…and that is what you will get. A cheap product and, if anything ever breaks, you may not be able to get replacement parts. If it’s a “one off” event, cheap may be the way to go but usually I suggest using a reputable supplier where you know they can service you if you have issues.

3) Your best salesperson is not always your best person in a trade show booth. What works on the phone or one-on-one doesn’t always work on a fast-paced, chaotic show floor. Usually, extroverts do better as they love this type of environment. Choose carefully.


4) Don’t just have salespeople in the booth. I always suggest having a technical person there as well that can answer any of those tough questions some potential customers will throw your way.

5) Trade shows can be exhausting. Make sure you have extra people there so you can give regular breaks to your staff. Their minds and feet will thank you!

6) Giveaways shouldn’t be entirely free. At one show I attended, I went on a simple mission: go to all of the 300 booths and ask for their little widgets and gadgets to fill my bag and see if any actually pitched me. Can you guess how many did? Out of 300 booths, only one booth said they would give me a golf ball only if I listened for a few minutes about their company. What good did it do everyone else to give me a gift without qualifying me? You can give away cheap items like pens and candies at a fairly low cost if you want, but I always suggest having a second-level item there for any existing customers that come and visit your booth. Keep them hidden away so the other visitors don’t ask for them.

7) If you are doing a free draw, use the ballot box as a lead machine. Qualify each person who fills out a ballot. Then simply put an A, B, C or D somewhere on it before you put it in the box (keep the box behind you so people aren’t putting ballots in themselves). This is your grade for them. A is a hot lead and needs immediate follow-up within 48 hours of the show closing. B is someone quite interested that you should follow-up within a week of the show closing. C is someone who may be a good fit somewhere down the road. Follow up within a few weeks just to thank them for coming by and then maybe every three to six months afterwards. D are the tire-kickers – no need for follow-up. Last on this subject is the ballot box itself. Make sure whomever is taking the booth down actually takes the ballot box with them. I don’t know how many shows we were taking down where we would see lots of ballot boxes sitting in the garbage pile. You spend a lot of money being in a show and work hard to collect these leads. Don’t waste this opportunity.

These are only seven of my suggestions for participating in a trade show. I have many more but space does not allow me to continue. I hope your next trade show is truly a rewarding

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit

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