Tips for Attending Your First Trade Show as an Exhibitor

by | Oct 10, 2022

For most of my career, I attended trade shows as a visitor.

I was developing and licensing my own product ideas, so I would walk up and down the halls of the show floors to connect with as many companies that work with inventors as possible. 

But when I started a guitar pick company in the 2000s, I got to experience what it’s like on the other side of the aisle.

We made the decision to attend NAMM, the largest musical trade show in the United States that takes place every year in Anaheim, California after we’d gotten some traction with our marketing.

Instead of preparing to introduce myself to potential licensees, I needed a plan for how we’d draw attention to our booth!

Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t great. By the time we started looking, everything was already sold out.

Maybe, if we were lucky, we could possibly convince someone to let us share their booth. 

Looking through Guitar World magazine, I noticed a very small ad featuring another guitar pick company.

When I called the company, which was named STIX, founder Mitch Hodesh was kind enough to share a booth with us. Thank you, Mitch!

How would we get people to interact with our booth?

By giving away free picks. After all, they were lightweight and inexpensive.

Before you know it, our booth was packed.

When the marketing manager at B.C. Rich Guitars came by to see what was going on, we were so busy, he couldn’t even get to us inside the booth. 

When he came back later, though, we cut a deal to pack a Grave Picker pick inside every guitar that BC Rich sold.

We could even use the B.C. Rich guitars in our ads!

Hot Picks was now the official pic of B.C. Rich Guitars!

That first show was wonderful and we picked up many independent music stores.

In 2006, we attended NAMM again.

Many of our winning garage bands came out to support us!

We also started attending other special events to promote our heavy-metal guitar picks, like concerts. 

Shoreline amphitheater in Moutain View

Here’s what I learned:

  1. If you’re manufacturing, trade shows are a must.
  2. Keep an open mind.
  3. Focus on one area first.
  4. Know your customer.

Thanks for reading,

Stephen Key

inventRight CoFounder