Trade shows are an exciting opportunity for sales professionals to develop relationships with prospects and show off the latest products and services. People can check out different demonstrations, network, and even enjoy the occasional sponsored concert or hosted bar.

Yet through all the excitement, how do you connect with new contacts?

We asked Jake Shaffren, our Director of Sales Development at DiscoverOrg and trade-show prospector extraordinaire, how he approaches the process.

Here are his 10 steps to successful trade show and event prospecting:

  1. Locate a list of sponsors and attendees
  2. Get a map of the event
  3. Host events around the trade show
  4. Set specific prospecting goals
  5. Take advantage of social time
  6. Track referrals
  7. Connect with prospects in the moment
  8. Take notes in between conversations
  9. Respect everyone’s space
  10. Follow up with prepared post-show sequences

Grab our Definitive Trade Show Infographic!

Pre-trade show prep

The key word to effective pre-show preparation is strategize.

1. Locate a list of sponsors and attendees

2 months before the event: Gather information on the who’s and what’s of the show.

Can you locate an attendees or sponsors list? Determine who you know, who is a great fit for your product or service, and who to contact ahead of time. Look for key contact names, industry, and role, if possible.

What if the event hasn’t publicly announced attendees or sponsors? No problem! Dive deeper into the research and create a proxy list.

PRO TIP: Create a list using the primary industry audience of the trade show within a 50-mile radius. Jake uses DiscoverOrg to generate this list and see who might be in attendance. He often contacts individuals ahead of time.

Watch the webinar: Maximizing Your Trade Show ROI

2. Get a map of the event

If your company has a booth, you may need to stay close. If it’s a “walk” event, you’ll have more ability to explore. Either way, it’s helpful to get a map of the event beforehand.

Knowing the layout and schedule is an advantage, because it gives you time to strategize ways to drive engagement back to your own booth or team members. Additionally, having an idea of how the event will run can give you insight into the best time to schedule meetings with contacts prior to the show.

PRO TIP: Use a map to plot a prospecting path. Jake uses the event maps and schedules to take notes and check off leads.

Read it: 21 Do’s and Don’ts to Master Trade Show Prospecting

3. Host events around the trade show

You don’t need to plan for a trade show alone. Work with the marketing team to raise awareness or drive traffic to your company’s booth, if you have one.

Invite prospects to a company-sponsored happy hour, host a panel session, and develop new marketing campaigns, such as an email campaign, around the event.

Conclude all this pre-show preparation by planning your post-show sequences. To ensure that your trade show prospecting goes smoothly, create follow-up content before the show. You can avoid the post-show scramble by organizing your contacts and guaranteeing your own best results.

4. Set specific prospecting goals

Amid the hustle and chatter of a trade show, set a concrete goal of a certain number of prospects to engage, or badges to scan, and stay focused on meeting it.

PRO TIP: Work with marketing to set a specific number of leads to talk to. Jake’s goal is to capture 10% of event attendees as future prospects, either through conversation or badge scans.

During the event

The excitement of trade shows is truly infectious … but don’t let it distract you from your goals.

Get out on the floor, meet with contacts, scan badges, and keep researching. Avoid the elevator pitch; instead, use your research to lead prospects into more memorable, in-depth conversations.

PRO TIP: Keep your smartphone and SDRs close! During the event, Jake continues to research company Scoops, IT projects, recent news, and pain points in the DiscoverOrg platform to have a more detailed conversation with leads.

He then looks up the prospects’ position in their organization’s reporting structure to learn whether they’re a key decision maker.

5. Take advantage of social time

Trade shows are not just a time for companies to show off their latest products and services. It’s also a time for members of similar industries to socialize.

Take advantage of interactive events, such as happy hours or sponsored dinners. Most other attendants are sales professionals, too, and they’re happy to talk and get to know others in a more relaxed environment.

Ease your way into conversation with an ice breaker. Worst case scenario, you make a new friend!

PRO TIP: Simple ice breakers can go a long way. Jake gets a few chuckles at sponsored happy hours by saying, “I’ll buy the first round of drinks.”

6. Track referrals

Hosting an event at the show is a wonderful way to bring in prospects.

Attendees gravitate towards learning. Create a presentation that isn’t just product demonstrations. By working with marketing teams, you can present prospects with more insight about their own industry.

This also gives prospects an opportunity to approach you at the show.

PRO TIP: Remember to always tie referrals back to marketing campaigns. Keep track of what works to improve future campaigns.

7. Connect with prospects in the moment

Connect with prospects on LinkedIn during the conversation.

Bringing them into your network is the first step towards building a relationship. During any free time, you can shoot a quick note to your new LinkedIn connection: “Great chat, look forward to connecting next week.”

This leaves your original conversation open for future discussions and deals. Face-to-face conversations are crucial – and it’s the best opportunity to make yourself memorable to others.

A personal, noteworthy conversation can warm up prospects to more meetings. In a best-case scenario, you can schedule follow up meetings at the show.

PRO TIP: Make yourself stand out from the crowd. Jake likes to ask, “What subject line would you like me to use?” when sending follow up emails. This allows the prospect to collaborate creatively with Jake – and he stands out amid the many post-show emails.

Connect with DiscoverOrg on LinkedIn!

8. Take notes in between conversations

sales intelligence lead generationAlways take notes in between conversations and meetings. You may think you’ll remember details – but after an afternoon and dozens of conversations, you probably won’t.

Use the event map or schedule to track warm prospects, and note any information that can help you return for more face-to-face conversations. Furthermore, trade show maps can alert you to competitors, and new and current customers.

PRO TIP: No business card? No problem! Screenshot their LinkedIn profile to remember this new contact. Jake also takes notes on a person’s business card for more personalized follow ups.

Maximize your trade show ROI – get our Trade Show Toolkit

Post-Show Operations

Prospecting tradeshow discoverorg

Now the whirlwind of prospecting is done … but that doesn’t mean you are ready to phone it in. Post-trade show operations are just as important as the preparation and attendance.

9. Respect everyone’s space

First, take a deep breath and give your prospects space.

Following the frenzy of the trade show, everyone returns to their daily routine – and most likely have follow-up event work to do as well. Give them a break.

Take this time organize your new prospects into an Excel sheet, including the detailed information you gathered.

PRO TIP: Make a note of which prospects are a priority. Jake created his own system of terms and symbols to note which prospects are hot or warm leads. Then strike while the iron is still hot!

10. Execute prepared post-show sequences

Return to the pre-prepared post-show sequences and content you planned ahead with Marketing.

 PRO TIP: Use new prospects to find decision-makers higher up the food chain. When Jake gets home, he runs his prospect list through DiscoverOrg’s ListMatch function to identify where each person fits into their organizational hierarchy – and who they report to. This gives him a warm connection to other decision-makers with potentially more budget discretion.

You can work through your new list of prospects and begin contacting them with their unique subject lines or follow-up phone calls.

Once you are properly tracking leads and making deals from all your hard work, it is time to set the next sales campaign into motion and start planning for the next trade show.

Trade shows can be a great way to generate a lot of warm leads in a short period of time. (Grab our infographic for ideas!)

Take advantage of the lead-generation skills of your marketing department, plan clear lead goals in advance – and watch your pipeline grow!

[cta id=”12294″ color=”green” size=”full” align=”center”]


Contact data and scoops to get you to the right buyer — at the right time.



We already have deep insights into your target accounts.


Amanda Kiyomi Uyesugi
About the author

Amanda Kiyomi Uyesugi

Amanda is a Senior Research Analyst on the Triggers Team at DiscoverOrg. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from Seattle University and is originally from San Jose, California. Go SJ Sharks!