Tradeshow Tips and Tricks

December 11, 2018

‘Tis the holiday season, and you know what comes right after the holidays? That’s right…it’s promotional products tradeshow time!

Some of the industry’s biggest shows occur in January, including the ASI Show, the PPAI Expo, the ISS Conference and others. It’s a chance to come together with your peers, learn about the latest trends and prepare for the upcoming year.

If you’re new to our industry, or even if you’re a veteran, choosing the right shows and what to do once you get there can seem overwhelming. We spoke with John Lindgren, Tradeshow Manager here at SanMar, to get a few tips and tricks that will help you spend your time wisely.

What you need to know before you go

“The first step is choosing the right show to attend,” advised John. You can save time and money by looking locally first. Regional shows are smaller but will often be more directly connected to your local suppliers, peers and customers.

Many of the larger shows, such as those put together by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) and the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), require an advance registration, and have benefits exclusive to association members.

Once you’ve decided where you’re going, there’s one more thing to do: take a look at the show directory and plan your time around the vendors, exhibits and presentations you most want to see.

While you’re there

Whichever show you attend, you’re going to meet a lot of people. There will be vendors, suppliers and peers to connect with, and little time to do it. Make sure that you’re getting contact information for anyone you’d like to follow up with.

Many vendors will also be able to scan your badge to get your information. If you’re comfortable with receiving their catalogs or emails, scanning your badge can be a quick shortcut to a long-term connection.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions!” John wanted to stress this point in particular. “That’s why we’re there.” This is your opportunity to find out more about each vendor and supplier, and more importantly, how they can help your business. Use it wisely!

One more thing to remember: you’re going to be doing a lot of walking at the show, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.

There and back again

There’s still work to be done after the show. Take all the information you gathered and contacts that you made, and follow up on them. Connect with suppliers and vendors you’d like to work with and start developing those relationships – and do it quickly! Striking while the iron is hot is always critical after a tradeshow.

And then the cycle begins anew – having experienced one tradeshow, it’s time to start planning the next one! With the knowledge you gain and a growing list of connections, each trade show you attend will add more to your business.

For more tradeshow advice, visit, where they have a series of videos and other advice about what you should know at your next tradeshow.