Vendors tips from Professor Howard Feiertag, VA Tech

By:  Professor Howard Feiertag

Hospitality and Tourism Management Expert from
VA Tech’s Pamplin College of Business


 For most hotels, the reason for participating as an exhibitor is multi-purposed:

  • Extend market share and increase sales
  • Build awareness for the property or brand
  • Make contacts with buyers of hotel services
  • Develop prospects/leads for rooms, meetings, social activities

The objective at a show is to see as many people as possible to develop information that will locate prospects and ultimately lead to increasing sales.


In choosing a show to attend as an exhibitor, there are certain steps to follow in   gathering information to determine if a particular trade show is beneficial.                                   

Trade show management needs to be asked for a source to provide you a rating on how well the show delivers the audience described. Get ratio of buyers to sellers.

Contact previous exhibitors to ask about attendance, and quality of prospective buyers; secure a ratio of buyers to sellers.

The types of trade shows in which hotels participate are those that involve a wide variety of market segments for hotel business. These may include corporate or association meeting planners; corporate travel buyers; motor coach tour operators; travel wholesalers, travel agents, government agency travel managers. Most annual conventions of associations include a trade show within the program. There also would be consumer shows such as bridal fairs or travel expositions. 


When participating in a show away from home base, plan to arrive early and stay late. Plan at least two days for making sales calls in advance of the show. Staying a day after the show will provide an opportunity for following up on local contacts made at the show.

Well in advance, identify prospective attendees with direct mail, e-mail, or phone calls to remind them to stop by the booth during their visit. Target the very important contacts to be sure to get to see them sometime during the event even though they may not get by the booth.

Do not overload on collateral and supplies which can be sent at a later date to contacts that may be interested in receiving information. 


  • Set up booth display and supplies when the exhibit area opens for exhibitor set-up. Do not wait for the last minute. Time is needed to determine what additional equipment or supplies are necessary.
  • Have a meeting with booth workers to review who does what, etc.
  • Two people should always be working the booth.
  • No one should work more than three hours without taking a break.
  • Arrive on time to open the booth.
  • Never block the front of the booth – allow people to walk “into” a booth. If there is a table for collateral, put it at rear of booth.
  • Have “quickie-qualifying questions” to help determine interest of a visitor. Ask leading questions…you are searching for prospects. Use a form.
  • Encounter must be fast and friendly, ask key questions to determine prospects.
  • Disengage when visitor is not a prospect. Be courteous, friendly, but discontinue discussion within two minutes, then move to another contact.
  • Five minutes is the most that is necessary for qualifying a prospect (actually two minutes is better). However, you should continue if a current need is indicated; pursue for additional information.
  • Just collecting business cards doesn’t help. Keep only the cards of those who you believe could become a prospect. Notes on the back of cards help identify needs for follow-up.
  • Sales people, competitors, and your own staff talking to each other reduce the number of contacts that could be made.
  • Dress for success. Business attire is always appropriate.
  • Standing with arms folded intimidates people – they are unlikely to want to talk.
  • Avoid having chairs in booth. There is no need for anyone to be seated. (A booth with chairs attracts tired people, who probably are not prospects).
  • Smile, act, and look knowledgeable.
  • Show interest in visitor’s concerns – there may be some with complaints about your property or product.
  • Attend educational seminars, and food functions to make more contacts.
  • Sit at meetings/functions with people you do not know. Sometimes the leads you get this way are better than the ones you get at the booth. Also, everyone attending the event does not get to the exhibit floor or your booth.
  • Take good care of yourself. Wear comfortable shoes, get plenty of sleep, eat regular meals, but never over-indulge. Working a trade show takes a lot of energy.


Evaluate trade show performance

  • Audience size and quality
  • Attainment of state objectives (number of contacts; number of prospects)
  • Return on investment – Prospects that are generated need to be estimated in potential revenue (dollar sales). Cost of investment includes all expenses involved.


Review information on a daily basis

Keep cards and completed Prospect Survey Forms in a safe place

Prompt follow-up is important

Immediately after the show write, e-mail or call. The phone call can even further qualify the prospect and appointments may be made.

The prospect information may be passed on to someone else at the hotel property or within the brand organization, but a “thank you” letter needs to be written indicating the information is being referred. 

For any questions about this article, please contact:

Howard Feiertag, CHA, CMP, CHME
Hospitality and Tourism Management Department
Pamplin College of Business
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0104