Don Marti has some tips:
1. Booth space is for suckers. Join a large vendor’s “partner program” and sweet-talk your way into their booth. This is especially easy if you make hardware — software companies don’t want to schlep and set up boxes. And hardware companies want to have some cool stuff on screen, component vendors want nifty boxes built with their parts, you get the idea.
3. Marketing’s job is done before the show. Leave them home and send at least two people: one big cheese (that’s you) and one sales engineer who knows the products inside out, can answer questions about them, and can fix them under pressure. Marketing people might look cute in a company shirt, but why fly and house someone just to have him or her say, “Hold on and I’ll find someone who can answer that for you.” Don’t try to do a trade show alone. Bring a consultant who works with your product if you have to.
6. Make your collateral work with the web, not against it. Bring lots of business cards and maybe useful doo-dads with your URL, but attendees don’t want to carry big glossy brochures any more.
8. Follow up! Don’t complain about all the money you’re wasting at trade shows when you’re letting all the business cards and lead printouts you bring back gather dust after the show. Take down key facts about prospects at the show, and ask for permission to follow up.