Many companies dream of having the opportunity to meet wholesale distributors and retail buyers, but simply aren’t in the position to pay exhibitor fees at national trade show events. Should you still bother attending trade shows if you aren’t one of the companies who are exhibiting? The short answer? Yes! Here’s why:

Plan for the future.

Maybe you don’t have the money to exhibit at a trade show today, but you could be ready by the time next year’s event rolls around. So, why not attend this year’s event to scope out your competition? See what competitors’ booths look like, who else is exhibiting, and what kind of turnout the event had. This will help you determine whether this trade show is worth the investment.

Sign up to speak.

Many trade shows will also have educational seminars and speeches along with the rows and rows of exhibitor booths. Even if you are not participating as an exhibitor, you can still sign up to speak about a topic you are passionate and knowledgeable about. This is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your industry and subtly promote your company to a room full of distributors and buyers without paying the costs associated with exhibiting at the event.

Advertising opportunities.

Trade shows will do a great deal of advertising to promote their event, and you can take advantage of this if you have it in your budget. Ask the event coordinator how much it will cost to promote your company in the event’s newsletter, blog, or website. Even though you won’t have a booth at the event, you will still reach your target audience of distributors and retailers who are interested in the event.

You can also ask the event coordinator whether they are selling mailing lists of the attendees after the event. This is a fairly common practice among trade shows, and it will allow you to reach out to distributors and retailers who attended the event that you did not get a chance to meet in person.

Meet new people.

If you have a booth at a trade show, you’re stuck standing in the same position throughout the entire event. However, if you attend a trade show without purchasing a booth, you have the benefit of being able to walk around to mix and mingle with other attendees. If you are confident enough to approach people and engage in conversation about business and your brand, you will quickly find you don’t necessarily need to pay for a booth in order to generate valuable leads.

But, if you do take this approach, remember to be respectful. You shouldn’t try to engage in conversation with someone about your company when they are at someone else’s booth trying to get more information about another company. Wait until the timing is right so you don’t come off as aggressive and disrespectful.

Have you ever attended a trade show to promote your business even though you weren’t paying for a booth? What was your experience like? Share your stories in the comments below!

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