Trade shows are one of the fastest ways to generate great leads.

They’re also crammed with thousands of 20-somethings who have flown across the country to exotic locations, armed with instructions to attend various happy hours – and the company credit card.

What could possibly go wrong?

To navigate trade show logistics, generate leads at trade shows, and maximize your hefty investment – you’re going to need a trade show showbook.

This showbook includes everything on-site reps need to know: a checklist of 19 critical tasks and logistics, expectations, even engagement goals.

What to include in your trade show showbook

a sales rep mentors a salesperson during a cold call


The first section of the trade show showbook should be a quick reference for your reps: critical information at a glance. This includes:

  1. Name of show
  2. Event description
  3. Name/s of attending representatives (and cell phone numbers!)
  4. Dates of conference
  5. Location (City, Venue, Street address)
  6. Booth setup date and time
  7. Conference hours
  8. Expo hall hours
  9. Hours reps are expected to be at the booth
  10. Color-coded floor map (We recreate it ourselves if it’s not provided!) The map identifies which sponsors are current customers, opportunities, and partners, to help reps on the floor, reference partners and customers, and steer people in the right direction for complementary solutions.
  11. What’s included – and what’s NOT included
    If you have a “turnkey” sponsorship, you don’t have to worry about setup or essentials like wi-fi or chairs. For other events, we need to bring all of our own gear.
  12. Company swag (How many t-shirts or other swag do you have to give away?)
  13. Booth tear-down instructions
  14. Return shipping information
  15. Contact information for our contact: Contacts at the office who can help the sales reps on the showroom floor, if they need anything

16. Lead and engagement goals

This is critical! How are reps to know that they’re successful (and your money is well spent) if they don’t have a goal? You have to put a number on your event lead goal.

So, how many customers, open opportunities, prospects, and customers should each rep talk to?

“We broke down our event performance by the size of the trade show,” says Nina Wooten, Director of Demand Generation. “We worked backwards from leads generated (badge scans) and total audience size, to determine how much of the audience are we really engaging with at shows; and of those, how many count as leads for us. This helps us focus our energy on shows that fall within our sweet spot.

“Larger shows do NOT always mean more leads. Sometimes, it’s more competition and noise (literally!) in the expo hall to compete with.”

There’s no one right answer to these questions, as the trade show lead goals you set will hinge upon several key considerations concerning your event. Take into account how many days the show will run for, how many hours the trade show floor is open, and how many company representatives are going.

Depending on how many reps are in attendance and the show size, my goal for DiscoverOrg’s sales reps is to reach 5-10% of show attendees.

17. Sponsored events and other related events

use org charts to prospect at trade shows

If you’re a trade show sponsor – or even just an attendee – part of the fun is all the other events: the happy hours, the after-parties, the power breakfasts, the lunch-and-learn’s.

Yes, they’re fun. But more important, they present prime opportunities to engage with future customers in a casual, friendly setting. If we’re hosting this kind of event, it’s mandatory that our reps attend.

We don’t require our reps to attend related events we’re NOT sponsoring … but since they have a lead goal, they’re usually motivated show up!

I include a list of all known events; and our reps have the option to attend together, split up, or go to something different. The logistics are up to them. (Or, if they’ve hit their lead goal, head back to the hotel room for some well-deserved quiet time!)

Videos, case studies, webinars: Get The Ultimate Trade Show Collection

18. Other exhibitors who are partners or prospects

Two weeks before the show, I cross-reference other sponsors in our Salesforce to determine if they are a customer, a current open opportunity, or a prospect.

We’ll want to visit them ALL. (Remember the color-coded map we made? This is a great time to update that!)

In the trade show showbook, I include a list of customers and prospects for our attending reps to visit. This includes:

  • company name
  • booth number
  • status (customer, open opp, etc.)

It’s up to our attending reps to figure out a game plan to make sure we visit them all.

19. Reminders!


Of course, the cost of attendance is on the company dime – but what arrangements are attending reps responsible for making themselves? Business cards? Hotel room reservations? The company credit card?

This is a good place to include company policy reminders, such as the policy for drinking alcohol, or limits to the cost of reimbursable meals.

I create a roles and responsibilities chart for our reps on the ground. I include blocks of time when they must be at the booth, lunch and networking breaks, 1:1 meetings, speaking sessions, and anything else that requires their attendance.

So much money is spent sponsoring trade shows, you have to be efficient!

Put these 19 points together in a binder or PDF – and you’ve got a trade show showbook for a smooth, successful show!

Final trade show logistics and showbook review

A couple of days before the show, I meet with attending representatives and review the show book at a high level. I identify who’s going, and spell out the objective and lead goals. (I also remind them again to bring their own business cards!)

We also review HOW leads are to be acquired: Will we have a badge scanner, or should they be focused on collecting business cards? Will we get a list of registrants from a session, or will we have to find names ourselves?

This is a good chance to verbally remind reps about sponsored happy hours, hosted dinners, or other networking events – all opportunities for lead-generation that can help them hit their lead goal.

How to choose sales reps to attend a trade show

So … who gets to go to the trade show?

You might want your Account Executives, even company executives, to attend the booth on the trade show floor. But if it’s the end of the quarter, or even end-of-year, most companies can’t spare the deal-closers.

Consider sending your top-performing sales development reps (SDRs). To pick the right attendees, look for those who:

  • have been at the company for at least a year
  • know the product inside and out
  • are great, motivated performers
  • can hold a conversation with anyone, even senior execs, on and off the phone
  • are very professional

Those who exhibit personal responsibility and accountability in the office are likely to do so outside of it as well.

These reps are representing the brand – so when 5:00 PM hits, they’re still on the clock. From the moment they step into the airplane until the moment they return home, these reps are working for the company.

And they have to act that way. While social events like dinners and happy hours often involve drinking in moderation, be sure to select responsible representatives that know the line and won’t demonstrate even a moment of bad behavior.

At DiscoverOrg, it’s considered a privilege for SDRs to attend events on location. For many, it’s their first job straight out of college – and it’s cool to travel for work!

“We have to be able to trust our team to represent us well at shows,” says Director of Demand Generation Nina Wooten, “just like they have to trust that we are going to send them fully prepared to be successful at the show.”

People who do a great job of representing your company are the same people who go on to have very successful sales careers.

With a detailed showbook in hand, you can ensure your people are on that path of success – and returning good leads in return for the investment your company made in the trade show.


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Danny Daly
About the author

Danny Daly

Danny Daly is DiscoverOrg's Marketing Events Manager. Before joining DiscoverOrg, Daly worked as a marketing specialist for Nike - a natural move from his alma matter, the University of Oregon.