10 min

How to Create Actionable Goals for a Trade Show

By Amy Silberman

There's no doubt that trade shows can be beneficial to companies by providing them with lead generation opportunities, new industry contacts, and by raising brand recognition. However, these benefits also require resources - especially time and money.

If you are spending your valuable time and money on trade shows, you want to know that you are getting the most out of your experience.

The best way to ensure your company sees a positive ROI from attending trade shows is by creating an event goal for each show.

However, it's hard to determine an accurate ROI from your trade show attendance with a generic event goal. With the amount of time and expenses you put towards trade shows, you want to be able to see tangible, measured results from your efforts; this can only be accomplished by an actionable goal.

How to Develop Goals That Produce Results

The best way to measure a specific ROI from your trade show exhibit is by developing SMART goals for each trade show you attend.

A SMART goal is defined as:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Realistic

  • Time-bound

Using this format allows you to define measurable goals and a time frame for completion.

It also asks you to think if your goal is one you can reasonably reach in the allotted time frame.

For example, look at the difference between these two statements:

  1. I want our company to generate leads at our upcoming trade show

  2. I want our company to increase lead generation by 20% over last year’s lead generation during the three days we are attending our upcoming trade show

As you can see, both statements are trying to achieve a similar goal: generate leads.

However statement number two gives a realistic number that can be measured to determine if the goal was met. It also gives a time frame for the goal to reach completion.

With proper preparation and planning, this goal is realistic and can be attained in the time frame given.


How to Create Smart Goals for a Trade Show

We found the best way to create measurable and actionable goals for a trade show is to not only have an overall goal for your trade show, but also daily achievable goals for each of your sales reps attending the show (especially if the show is multiple days).

As an example of how planning overall and daily actionable goals helps to create measurable outcomes for a trade show, we have created a comprehensive guide using a fictional Securities Trade Show.

Each example of a goal pre show planning session will have information about the trade show itself, your product, and your target audience for that show.

Planning sessions as detailed below will allow you to create both overall goals and daily goals for each trade show.


Trade Show Information

Since your event goals will determine your entire trade show marketing strategy, you first need to clarify which potential customers you will be marketing to and what you will be marketing at the show. This will allow you to create goals that match what you need to sell.

As you can see in the example below, we like to clarify who our target audience at the trade show is with a buyer persona.

These are the potential customers who will be most interested in our trade show marketing strategy surrounding our featured product or service or interested in our marketing efforts to increase brand awareness.

Trade Show Information Planning Session
Trade Show Name: ISC West
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Dates: April 1-4, 2025
Est. Attendance: 30,000
Buyer Persona: Sam the Security Man
Booth Focus/Theme: Super Security
Feat. Products/Service: Special New Product Launch

This goal setting planning session will determine what our trade show marketing campaign will be, which will be based on if our marketing efforts are geared towards a specific product or service or if we are trying to increase brand awareness.


SMART Goal Building

After we know who our target audience is and what we will be focusing on for the show, we can begin to develop our SMART goal(s) for the show.

When going through the next goal setting planning session, we recommend you answer the following key questions:

  • Why are we attending this trade show?

  • What product or service are we marketing?

  • How does this relate to our marketing goals?

While the answers to some of these questions may seem obvious, it is good to see them written down. This will help you clarify what you want to get out of the show; it will also help ensure everyone on your team is on the same page about the overall goal of the show.

Q&A Planning Session
Why are we attending this trade show?
We are hoping to gain new qualified leads who are interested in using or selling our new Super Security Product we are launching at the show
What product or service are we marketing?
We have a new Super Security Product that is unique because of its drone cameras; we are launching and marketing it at the trade show
How does this relate to our marketing goals?
Our goals are to gain new qualified leads from the show who are interested in purchasing the product for themselves or selling it at their store/from their company

Once these questions have been answered, you can decide what the generic end event goal will be for the show (i.e. increasing our number of leads, build our email list, more website traffic, increased following on social media platforms, etc.).


After you have created a generic goal, you can then go through the SMART checklist to further clarify your goal and make it SMART and actionable.

SMART Goal Planning Session
Main objective: Gain new qualified leads at the show who are interested in purchasing or selling our new Super Security Product
How will you measure it?:
We want to increase our number of leads by 20% over last year's leads gained from our previous year product release
Is it attainable? What is your strategy?:
Yes, through a marketing plan of new promotional materials, social media and blog integration, and email campaigns, we should be able to achieve this increase in our leads
Is it realistic? What will you use to accomplish your goal?:
Yes, we can learn from our past success last year to create a new strategy for our product launch and leverage that attention into an increase in leads over last year; we also have two extra team members this year to work towards our goal
What is the time frame (daily, overall, etc.)?:
Our target number will be accomplished in the four days of the show between the five sales team members who will be attending the trade show

If your goal has passed the SMART goal checklist, you are ready to solidify your overall trade show goal. From the SMART checklist, you should be able to come up with a specific objective, a way to measure or track that objective, and a time frame for completion.

Overall Show Goal Planning Session
Objective: Increase new leads by 20% over last year in the four days we are at the trade show
Tracking: Last year's numbers versus this year's numbers/progress
Time Frame: Four Days of Trade Show


How to Use Your Overall Goal to Create Daily Goals

A good way to ensure every team member is on the same page and stays on track during the show is to incorporate well defined daily trade show goals for each person.

We recommend you have a short team meeting at the beginning and end of each day of the trade show to encourage the setting and meeting of these daily trade show goals.

Each daily goal should also meet the criteria of a SMART goal.

You should encourage your team to focus especially on the attainable and realistic attributes of this checklist. No one should be discouraged by setting an unreachable daily goal or let others do all the work by setting a goal that is too low.

Daily Goal Planning Session
Overall Show Goal
Objective: Increase new leads by 20% over last year in the four days we are at the trade show
Tracking: Last year's numbers versus this year's numbers/progress
Time Frame: Four Days of Trade Show
Daily Goal
Team Member: Amy Silberman
Date: 4/1/25
Daily Goal: I will gain the contact information for 20 new quality leads today from the launch of our new product
SMART Checklist
Specific: Yes, contact information for leads
Measurable: Yes, 20 leads
Attainable: Yes
Realistic: Yes
Time Bound: Yes, today
Goal Strategy
How will we accomplish our daily and overall goal today?:
Today we will launch our new product. This will draw attention to our booth. We will inform people through our website, social media accounts, blogs, and other communication tools. Because of this, we can use our pre-planned marketing tools and materials to talk with visitors. We will use this conversation to offer more information and then have them sign up and provide contact information by using the form on our landing page.

These well defined daily trade show goals will create a sense of accountability for your team members throughout the show and also help develop a sense of teamwork as every member is working to achieve the ultimate goal.

The Value of an Actionable Goal

While it may seem like extra work to go through the process of these goal planning sessions, it can help you and your team clarify an actionable goal for each of your trade shows.

You are spending time and company resources on trade shows with the expectation that it will help your company.

By taking the time to fully develop a SMART and actionable goal for each of your trade shows, you can see the exact benefits a trade show provides your company and encourage your team to meet an achievable predetermined number instead of an arbitrary amount of new leads.

Amy Silberman

Amy Silberman

Client Success Manager and Content Marketing Specialist