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Get Results at Trade Shows Without Spending a Bundle

Even if you lack the budget for a booth, you can still boost your business at a trade show.

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Q:I'm interested in attending trade shows to generate leads. There are five industry partner events/trade shows coming up, but my business only has the budget to exhibit at two of them. Can you provide me with creative ways to capture leads at a show without a booth?

A:It seems that every entrepreneur faces the same challenge: how to get quality leads without spending a ton of money. Here are some ideas that you and every other entrepreneur can use at conventions, trade shows and other special events:

1. Volunteer to work in registration.Do this, and attendees will see you right when they walk into the show. It will also give you the opportunity to spend quality time with them by meeting and greeting. Of course, make sure to wear a high-quality shirt or jacket embossed with your logo. You may also use the opportunity to hand out logo-embossed key chains, notepads, highlighters and other affordable promotional items.

2. Find other ways to get involved.While the attendees are in meetings and on the convention floor, you could, for instance, be hosting the spouses on outings to local malls, the zoo or other local attractions. This not only gives you the opportunity to hobnob, but also plants a seed of interest into the ears of the real decision-makers: a prospect's spouse or partner.

3. Purchase the mailing list of all attendees.Immediately after the convention, make sure to mail a postcard or other piece of correspondence to those on the list. You want to get your business's name in front of them again before too much time passes.

4. Purchase ad space in the event newsletter.Place a high-impact ad with a special offer for all that attend the convention and respond by a certain date.

5. Volunteer for speaking engagements.Throw your name in the hat to present at one or more of the many workshops offered at the convention. It's a great opportunity to showcase your expertise and meet prospects without being confined to a booth.

6. Approach noncompeting speakers at the convention.Working with them can help you gain more visibility for your business. Offer to create and print their handouts in return for ad space or a mention in their handouts and presentations.

As you can see, a little creativity can go a long way toward making special events work for you. Even better, you can get results without spending the amount of money required to set up a booth every time.

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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