How to Convert Trade Show Leads and Event Sign-Ups into Customers


Even in the digital age, trade shows and in-person events are still a big part of the business. They’re also a great place to drum up some stellar leads. But how do you make sure that those leads don’t just get lost in the pile of trade show stock that you take back to the office? 

Lead capture is critical, but so is making sure that you do something with all those leads that you’ve managed to generate. For starters, you should take advantage of what’s known as event intelligence, or data that shows what people have learned from past events and shows. This intelligence can provide insights on:

  • How events turned out
  • What most interested people
  • How people responded 
  • What actions were taken
  • Which leads are most interested

All this information makes it easier for you to improve your events. However, what most business owners and leaders miss is that it also provides value in helping you qualify leads and find the ones that are most likely to convert. 

Planning is key 

Lead capture and follow-up starts as soon as you decide to attend a trade show or industry event. You need to start planning right away to determine what your goals are in terms of cultivating leads and reaching prospects. 

  • Who is/are your target audience(s)? Which of them will be in attendance?
  • Which competitors will be at the event?
  • How can you align your offering with their needs?
  • Can you get advance sign-ups or send emails ahead of time?

This information not only helps you plan for the event itself, but for how you’re going to capture and utilize all those leads. For example, if you can get an email out ahead of time, you’ll already have the customer data on hand. Then, you can utilize technology tools and AI to compare that to the list of people who sign up or attend the event to find some pretty warm leads that you can reach out to. 

Those will be more likely to convert than people who just walked into the trade show or worse, those who signed up for the email blast but then never showed at the event. If you’re already in the after stages of your event marketing and just looking to get as many leads converted as possible, tuck these notes away for future events. 

Use lead capture software 

One of the quickest and most efficient ways to collect and manage leads at an event of any kind is with lead capture software. There are tons of business card scanning apps, badge readers, and other tools like QR codes that you can use to stockpile information in no time and collect valuable user data that you might not get otherwise. 

If you’re using this software at the event, it should come with an immediate follow-up with any interested leads. Don’t wait until you get back to the office. Don’t wait until Monday. Don’t even wait until the show is over. If you’ve got the time during the show, reach out right away. That will put you leagues ahead of the competition and give you a much better chance of converting those leads in the end. 

Segment leads for appropriate next steps 

Some of your leads may be just starting to look for solutions. Others may be ready to buy a product or service but aren’t sure which one is best. Still more may be on board with your company specifically, but not quite over the fence and ready to finish the conversion. In any case, they all require a unique approach. With lead segmentation, you can make sure that you employ the right follow-up techniques with the right groups for the best outcomes. 

If you’re using lead capture software or have a CRM to manage your leads, you can even automate segmentation to a certain degree. For example, if you want to target a specific age range or other demographic, you could do that. You can even segment leads by their pain points or problems so that they are given the best solutions. 

Actually do the follow up

According to one study, as many as 80% of leads from trade shows never receive a single follow-up communication. With that in mind, although it’s not first on the list, it should be first on your mind (and the mind of your sales team): you have to do the follow-up in the first place. Whether the lead prefers phone, email, or another form of outreach, reach out as soon as possible and get the pipeline moving along. 

We know it can get busy. You get back to the office after an event and you’ve got your usual pile of work to tackle. Those leads often get set aside with the best of intentions for getting to them “when you can.” But then, that time never comes. Instead, the leads sit there, doing nothing for your business. And conversely, it appears that your business is doing nothing for all those leads—do you think they’re going to stick around and wait that long when you’ve got so many competitors out there?

Continuous improvement is key 

Practice makes perfect, or as close to perfect as you can get. When you want more from your trade show and event leads, you have to make that “more” happen. The tips above will help you get started on improving your trade show lead generation right away so that you can convert more leads and make the most of all that time and effort you invested in attending the event in the first place. 

And while you’re improving, let the virtual receptionists at help you field all those new leads. We can provide a 24/7 answering service along with support for lead intake and appointment scheduling to help maximize lead nurturing and conversions. In addition to our support for outreach campaigns, it creates a total package to help you generate leads more effectively. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to

Business Education

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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