What do you take to a trade show?


New Member
For those of you that have done booths at a trade show - what do you take with you? I may have the opportunity to have a table at an event tonight but I'm not sure what to take.

I have a banner being made up by a family member to put at my table, and I'm taking business cards, a marketing flyer that I made and probably an edited list of projects that can be done in an hour. I don't have any promo materials made up yet (pens, etc.)

What else should I take? I already donated 2 hours of service as a door prize, which is how the opportunity came up. Should I have another drawing at my table for people who drop in business cards?

The event is the one I posted about the other day - the foreclosure relief event and it's sponsored by the IL Realtor Association so I'm hoping to target some realtors, etc.

I only have a few hours to prepare but what would you take?


New Member
I think I have missed the window, but for future reference this is what I do/have done.

I started out with a foamboard like kids use at science fairs. I created a display with my photo, brief bio, and sample materials. I had brochures, business cards, pencils, pens, and keyfobs for people to take. I used an inexpensive, white sheet to cover the table.

I have since "graduated" to a real display board which is hook-and-loop friendly.

I have my company name and Web address, information on services, and a copy of the ad I have been running in a local business weekly. You will also see (if the photo link works) I have some plastic display frames (purchased at a mega discount outlet) with a brochure, bio, and announcement of my upcoming book. I purchased 2 acryllic brochure displays, business card holder in a clearance rack at an office supply store.

The Ukeep binder in the middle holds copies of letters, articiles I've written, and sample documents I've created. They are in page protectors so interested individuals can review or I can show them as I speak to someone.

I still place pens and keyfobs for people to take. They have my company name and Web address on them.

Even at a tradeshow, you need to get out and approach other vendors. I suggest taking someone with you who can "man" your table while you are mingling. Or, have enough info on the table that you are comfortable leaving it unattended.

Good luck!


New Member
Check with your chambers of commerce and convention and visitors. I've attended business women's events held during our legislative sessions, SBA events ... Just be careful not to spend a lot of money on them.

One of our chambers is holding a Business Showcase in March. For this event, I won't buy a table. I will attend as a "future member" and peddle my services, so-to-speak.


New Member
A couple of other ideas. A bouquet of flowers for the table and a basket of candy.

People tend to feel a little obligated to stop and chat, even for just a few seconds if you have candy.


New Member
I'm glad this topic came up. I am in a trade show this weekend and I had the exact same question! It's the first one that I will do as a VA so I really want it to go well. I like the idea about the candy! Robin where did you ever find the foam board? I have never seen it anywhere even the box stores like Staples.


New Member

Wow, that is spectacular, Robin!! I am so going to use the "science fair" idea. It just is so impressive.

I recently did a trade show. I really enjoyed it. Great to get out in person and connect. Here's some tips that I found helpful. I learned a lot too. Next time hopefully I'll do even better. I had a lot of "why didn't I think of that moments when I was there.

I had a folder with 2 pockets that I put some articles in, my business card, magnet, gift certificate, etc. It was great because then it gave them something tangible to take with them. I have heard back from several from doing this.

I had a notebook so they could sign up and give me their email addresses. My problem here was I couldn't read them. I asked on Facebook and Ruth Martin gave the tip of having a document with squares that they could fill in. So going to do that next time. Also, Paula Belyeu gave the recommendation of having a fishbowl to collect business cards and then have a contest. I love that idea.

I had copies of my books and also lots of business cards. I do several things so I had different business cards made for the different things I do. Did they want to start a business or did they want my PR services? Also I had magnets. People seemed to love the magnets. (thank you VistaPrint!)

Also I had a candy bowl. This did bring people over to the table and one did buy the book so it paid for the candy. (Just get candy you don't like if you sit and eat it all day.) LOL

One tip too is to get there early and set up. That way you can talk to the exhibitors too. I did more networking with them.


Diana Ennen


New Member

I don't know your budget, but I would look into the personalized M&Ms. If you can afford some, that would be something to start the talk and they'll remember. (plus - it's CHOCOLATE!!! How can you go wrong with chocolate?)


I'll read actual post and replies later and add my 2 cents. I saw the topic title and then saw the commercial. I'll be back with more ideas for sure that are more tradeshow-esque!


I work in a private school and we just finished the science fair, you can purchase the boards from Staples, Walmart, and if you are in Canada Monarch Basics also carry them.

I like this idea. Another thing you can do is a Powerpoint Presentation that keeps running, if you have power at your table.

Good Luck.



New Member
Well...since we are a tech savvy bunch...what about a looped powerpoint presentation? Wouldn't that show off what you can do in powerpoint and at the same time show that you have your own equipment (laptop/computer)? I think it would be very impressive. The presentation would lay out what a virtual assistant does, how we do it, how we manager our billing, share documents, track time, etc? You could even include a video introduction to your business. I know some of you don't have laptops but it would be a great investment and then....you could work on your patio in the summer. LOL

This is AWESOME information as I am going to have a booth set up at a Trade Show this Saturday coming up! I am so excited about this opportunity which I must add was very affordable, but even greater is the reason and who is behind the Trade Show event. I knew a little about how to do promotional tables from doing some in the past however, I just learned so much more from reading all of the posts. Thanks a bunch! I'll keep you posted on how all went:) Please feel free to throw more advice my way as I greatly appreciate it!!!!!!


New Member
I'm going to be attending a Trade Show in October and all of these ideas are so helpful. Robin, thank you so much for sharing the photo--it's great to be able to SEE how your table looked. And Diana, the sign-in sheet to get emails, etc is also a good idea to add to your database. Tishawn, how did your trade show go? Any good tips to add? And Cortney the M&M's are a great idea--I LOVE Chocolate so there might not be any left at the end of the show :)

One idea that a friend just shared with me was to have a great big glass container full of Chee-tos since one of my business colors is orange! Sounds like it might be fun, huh?

Anyone else have any fun and useful ideas?


These are great ideas! I have my first trade show coming up next month and will definitely be using these ideas. I was thinking of using one of those electronic picture frames with the slideshow option. Then show pictures of things a VA can do in one hour. It might be less risky then having my precious laptop sitting out on the table.


New Member
We do trade shows, conventions, etc ALL the time - and ABSOLUTELY love it and see their success stories all the time as well. Most of the time I am busy being there for someone else's business rather than our own, Deb's Professional Services - and when there I do NOT advertise my own, but rather concentrate on that of the client/business associate.

I have seen a WEALTH of absolutely great ideas above.

Suggest VISTAPRINT.... great for business cards and all the stuff that MATCH - i.e. banners, decals, pens, t-shirts with your logo etc. -- and inexpensive but got to have time to get it.

Emphasize always have at LEAST one person with you. (this is where we usually come in to assist - or even be there when the associate cannot). One simple thing - to have someone collecting business info & cards from ALL of the other participants and to be out in the crowd as well, networking - obtaining info & directing people TO your booth.
One thing we are OFTEN paid to do and hard to believe it but professional marketing companies we work with say this is very important part of their marketing -- someone handing out flyer or magazine at the entrance or even the exit of the convention center etc. (this is often even done off-site - we do it mostly outside Las Vegas Convention Center and right on the Las Vegas Strip, many also deliver to individual hotel rooms - putting under the door etc). AND this can be done whether YOU are
participating in the show or not. -- wear something that will draw attention to YOUR business i.e. clothing with logo embroidered and large pic of you & your card for name tag - T-Shirt with logo and id tag etc.

This is great for newbies too - and if on limited budget, ... -- and not able to get a booth -- or it is not of your particular genre...
*do the above re flyers
*get business cards - from participants, crowd, etc.
*stop to talk with people at the booth (you have a captive audience - but don't take up too much of their time you want to leave a GOOD impression, something they will remember...) -- give them your card, take their card (make notes on back) - make sure it has email address - then contact them via email within next few days - referring to something in conversation etc ...

Many of our people rather than purchasing pens etc... give bag (your logo of course) for people to carry things in - people ask where to find them... and have to go to your booth to get them

A publishing company we frequently work for prints a magazine advertising various vendors participating in the show and other vendors who just want to pay for advertising... then they pay us to pass these out -- have us wear an advertisers t-shirt sometimes and pass out these mags (marked that it is not the official trade-show publication)

YOU can take a page out of their book so to speak - lol. Many times there is all kinds of information prior to the trade show -- such an agenda of what is going on inside, a map or directory of booths i.e. booth number, location, name of exhibitor etc. -- (perhaps if you know ahead of time you can contact them and offer your services while they are at the show)... THAT can be the material you make up into a flyer (also including info re YOUR business of course) -- giving them something of value BEFORE they enter the exhibit... and can call out "Trade Show Agenda" etc.... -- also if asked by someone what you are doing.... -- make it pretty - and brought to you or sponsored by YOUR BUSINESS card/info etc....

Hope this helps someone - or gives some fodder to new ideas!


New Member
A VA I know created a swag bag filled with fun toys and had a message that said something like "you should play more and let me help with your business". Things she put in were a slinky dink and other items. It was a hit apparently. I would create a swag bag and wear this t-shirt as a conversation starter. http://teespring.com/virtual-assistant