5 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections at Trade Show Events

July 09, 2024

When you’re at a trade show, it’s easy to get focused on simply gathering leads or generating sales – short-term results. But beyond that, are you building meaningful connections that can lead to future business or open doors to other exciting opportunities? I know I’ve made some of my best client and friend connections at a trade show. Perhaps that’s how you and I first met! In order to meaningfully connect with someone – whether that’s a customer, neighbor, coworker, or anyone else – you need to focus on a few basic things. Together, these actions guarantee more effective communication and demonstrate your interest in the other person. So when you want to connect with someone in a way that makes the relationship more beneficial for both of you, do these five things:


People LOVE giving their opinion. Just ask them what they think. Bring up a hot topic or something that’s current to your industry. (Just be sure to avoid religion and politics, and proceed with caution when talking about sports.)

People will remember when you ask their thoughts on a subject. It shows you value their opinion. So pay attention to what they say.trade show island rental

If you find points where you agree with them, let them know you understand and why. If your perspective differs from theirs, nod and say you can see how they came to that conclusion. Then carefully change the subject.


It’s said that the sweetest sound to any person is the sound of their own name. One proven practice for remembering someone’s name is to repeat it immediately after you hear it while looking them in the eye.

If you have trouble remembering names, one tip is to link a characteristic about them in your memory. For example, I often help people remember my name with a quick memory hook: If your car is in the shop, you’re car-less. That rhymes with my name, Marlys. (That typically makes people chuckle – and helps commit my name to their memory!)

So if you meet Dave and he loves fishing, in your mind you might tag him as Dave the fisherman or think about going fishing with Dave. (Just don’t necessarily share this memory trigger out loud!)

Use the person’s name in conversation, but don’t overdo it or you’ll sound insincere. For that extra boost to remember, be sure to say their name again as you conclude your conversation. And if by chance you forgot, it’s okay at this point to ask or clarify. They’ll appreciate that you want to remember. (BTW … it doesn’t hurt to jot a quick note on their business card or lead form right after you walk away from the person either.)


What are they wearing? Do they have a topic they talk about passionately? Do they mention their children or pets often?

Developing a deep connection with someone means caring about who they really are. You’ve got to notice them and what they’re interested in. After you recognize certain characteristics or tendencies about someone, you want to incorporate those topics into your next conversation.


Don’t wait for coincidence or the calendar to put you two together again. Make a point to reconnect with them frequently, even if it’s just a quick note on social media. They’ll begin to see that you really do care about the relationship.


How can you possibly get to know someone if you do all the talking?

Listen – truly listen – when they talk. I recommend exhibitors spend 80% of their time in the booth listening and only 20% talking. (Not always easy, I know!)

Next, remember what they say and work it into later conversations, including your follow-up messages. This shows you’re making the effort to get to know them as a person, not just a customer. Plus you’ll stand out over so many other exhibitors who don’t make that effort!

Forming more meaningful connections is possible, even on the trade show floor. First you need to genuinely care about others and make the focus about them, not you.

Believe me – if you use these five techniques to connect on more than a surface level, you’ll see your relationships grow.

Guest blogger:   Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image and Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series). She's also the creator of the Exhibitor Education Manifesto and the ExhibitorEd Success System and founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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