The New Rules of Show and Tell

How to shift the ultimate in-person tactic to a yearlong digital experience

Trade shows can be central to an A/E/C/R firm’s marketing plan, but too often companies are disappointed in the results for the significant investment of resources and budget. To maximize ROI, forget about your booth dimensions and shift your focus to digital and social media strategies that drive online engagement, and media relations that drive awareness. Now is the time to listen up, adopt a digital-centric approach, break rules and create new ones. Now is the time to become a thought-leading resource and cross-channel content publisher.


Trade shows can effectively bring prospects further down the sales funnel – if you move them physically, emotionally and intellectually. That’s a tall order that goes beyond collecting email addresses! By listening to prospects before, during and after the show, you can glean key insights that shape your strategy. This is easier than ever – by leveraging social media listening tools, real-time search insights and your own surveys.


Armed with audience insight, you’re positioned to build a sound, 360-degree strategy that orbits around key trade show cycles and, yet, engages year-round.

Curate Content

Create a thematic digital content hub that will serve you long term. The content should be show-agnostic, so you build once, but leverage across multiple shows with few revisions. Offer content in “snackable” formats from authors who will be at the show. Audit your social channels, curate the best photos, graphics and videos and integrate them into the hub. If you don’t have visuals to support your story, make that a top priority.

Amplify the Story

You’ve got the right content, but how will your audience find it? Consider a content amplification service (i.e., Outbrain, Taboola) to drive traffic by publishing it alongside related content on mainstream news sites.

Optimize URLs

While your content hub should be largely universal so it can extend beyond a singular show, create vanity URLs that include the specific show’s name. For example, your landing page is, but to attract SMPS Build Business attendees, your vanity URL could be This ensures plenty of qualified attendees will be organically exposed to your content.

Mix it Up Socially

Twitter is the ultimate real-time news feed and is effective for engaging in hashtagged trade show conversations, but it may not be your social hub or main referral source. Don’t be afraid to lean on different platforms at different times throughout the trade show season.

Go Off Cycle

Trade media are bombarded with news on every inch of the show floor. Sure, they’ll do a “best of show” roundup, but typically any single brand will only receive a mention. Seed stories with media well in advance so your company has a more meaningful presence in the “show issue.” Additionally, use the show as a chance to build a relationship with the media rather than pushing your latest press release. By asking questions, you can uncover how to be a better resource for that publication.

Let the Content Speak

You’ve spent the better part of the year curating your digital content hub and increasing its visibility, so don’t forget to show it off! Have iPads connected to your content hub and allow attendees to peruse it at their leisure. Lead attendees to gated digital content, solicit an email address and incentivize with a sweepstakes.

Leave the Floor

Create a memorable touchpoint outside the show where there’s less competitor noise. Consider hosting a VIP cocktail reception at a local venue, where, instead of pitching your firm’s capabilities, you discuss an issue or shared interest.


  • Listen, plan, execute and listen again.
  • Not all content is created equal. Curate a hub that revolves around a theme that resonates, then optimize, optimize and optimize again.
  • Don’t reinvent; repurpose. Take existing multimedia content from social media channels and centralize it into one destination.
  • It’s OK to steal web traffic from the trade show organizer.
  • Mix up your social media.
  • Forgo the obligatory press release push. Pitch stories to key media outlets off cycle.
  • Leave the show floor to break away from competitor noise.
  • Measure frequently and optimize swiftly.

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