5 Ways to Generate Leads After Your Conference or Trade Show Gets Canceled

During the pandemic, we’ve all had our share of things canceled or postponed. And if you’re like me, you’re missing the opportunity to meet face-to-face. One of the biggest concerns I’ve seen from marketing and sales teams lately is the scary fact they won’t be able to get leads from a trade show or conference anymore during this time. And some of our clients rely on trade shows as their #1 source of quality sales leads.

Let’s face it, physical trade shows where you meet with prospects, current customers, and partners are typically a pricey but beneficial opportunity. So what are you going to do now that they just aren’t happening? 

Here are a few things you could try.  

1. Go Virtual

Many of the largest conferences and trade shows are now finding ways to go virtual. This can mean everything from the keynote speakers, to breakout sessions, to the 1-on-1 interactions, and happy hours. 

If you’ve supported or attended a conference before COVID-19, it may be a great test to see how many leads you can get from hosting a virtual event. While virtual events are becoming the new normal, be sure to think through these things before attending: 

  • With all of the distractions going on, make sure you stay engaged. Offer something unique if you are sponsoring, and if given the opportunity to connect with other attendees, be prepared.  Make sure to stay involved and not just background noise.
  • If there’s an opportunity to sponsor or speak at a virtual event, even if you normally would just attend, take it (right now, you can get a lot of engagements for a lower cost). It could be a great way to get in front of the audience.
  • Ask for the list of attendees and create a multi-touch follow-up campaign. This campaign may not be as warm as a typical booth visit, but getting a list to email and reach out to can’t hurt if it is done correctly.

If you are trying to host your event virtually and need help, click here to reach out because we can help. 

2. Send Gifts to Your Current Clients or Prospects 

If you aren’t attending a conference anymore, you’re most likely saving money on what it would have cost you for the booth, travel, hotels, food, etc. 

Why not use those extra savings to show your customers and prospects that you’re thinking about them? Create a list of contacts and mail them a thoughtful gift that demonstrates your gratitude or simply shows you are thinking about them.

Yes, company swag could be cool, but this time take the opportunity to mail them something unique so that you stand out. There are plenty of great gift companies, but if you’re going for a unique gift, be sure to take a look at the local vendors in your city. Some of our favorites to use are Pack Elephant or Green Giftz (Yes, they are both partners, but we really do love using them!).

Pack Elephant has hundreds of makers and focuses on using local, woman-owned, or veteran-owned companies for their goods that go in each gift (Above is a picture of what we’ve sent before!).

Green Giftz has a large selection of items and focuses on eco-friendly merchandise to set you apart from your competition.

To recap: 

  1. Create a target list of contacts and prospects
  2. Look at local vendors within your city 
  3. Pick something that will help you stand out from your competition
  4. Decide if you want to send it yourself or outsource it to your vendor (this can be a huge time and cost savings)

3. Clean Up Your List and Reach Out

It’s always a good time to clean up your lists/data and reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while, but right now you might actually have the time to do it well! Good news, there could be a small to zero cost of doing these 2 things.  

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you made a list of target contacts and set goals for who you want to land within this next year?

It’s important to consistently stay in touch with these contacts so that you are always top of mind. You can start by doing the following:

  1. Clean your data: When it comes to cleaning up your data, here are 5 Simple Stages to Gain Data Hygiene.
  2. Set your targets contacts (Define the audience)
  3. Brainstorm a campaign (this could mean a promotion, offer, or even just an “are you still interested” campaign)
  4. Implement a multi-touch campaign with email(s) and phone call follow-ups from your sales team

Aligning the targets, the messages, and touches with your marketing and sales team will lead to greater success. If done well, this could mean alignment with your marketing and sales team.

4. Boost Your Digital Spend

This should be a no brainer, and when combined with the cleaning up lists and reaching out section above, you have a great chance of showing ROI with your investment. 

Without leads coming in from your trade shows, you’ll need to find a way to keep your funnel full. With ad spending down and certain brands playing it safe, there may be an opportunity for you to capture more leads at a lower cost.

Tip: If you’re running ads it may be time to review what’s working well and pick up the spend.  

Overall, you should:

  1. Review your current ads or campaigns to see what ads and platforms are working well.
  2. Once you analyze what’s working, focus on boosting your spend on that campaign.
  3. Follow-up with the leads you are getting, and follow-up quickly. During this time of uncertainty, people crave information and want it quickly. Research shows that leads followed up on within 24 hours are much more likely to convert to a sale! 
  4. Offer them something of value to keep them coming back and engaged. This could be a webinar series, a virtual meeting with one of your sales representatives, or an education digital download that pertains to what they’re going through right now. 

5. Give Back to the Community and Get Involved

Last but not least is to engage with your community. You’ve probably seen a lot of companies starting or continuing to share their resources with non-profits. They are focusing on giving back to the community, and know by doing that they will eventually see a return.  

I heard a PSA from our local arena yesterday that really made me want to support them. They noted that while all their upcoming shows were canceled, they’d like to use their pre-paid airtime to thank the healthcare workers and first responders in the community. Talk about finding a silver lining!

Do you have any pre-paid media placements that you could turn into a community engagement opportunity? From digital ad spend to the traditional media placement, use that full page ad or air time you already bought to connect with the organizations that you and your employees already support. The best “ad” you ever run might actually be one where you don’t talk about yourself at all, but rather who you care about and why we are all in this together. 

If you need some help on where to start, try this: 

  1. Ask your team what they are already supporting.
  2. Narrow that list by picking an organization that fits your businesses’ mission and values.
  3. Reach out to that organization to see how you can help them.
  4. Put together an engagement plan for the next 3-6 months to help them and make sure you engage your team in the process. 


If one of your trade shows, conferences, or events was recently canceled, you still have the opportunity to turn that time into gaining prospects and clients for your company. To recap, here are the 5 things you can do: 

  1. Go virtual with an event
  2. Send unique gifts to your current clients or prospects 
  3. Take some time to make sure your data is clean and reach out to prospects you want to land within this next year
  4. Boost your digital ad spend on your current successful campaigns
  5. Show you care by giving back to your community and getting involved

Don’t let missing a few conferences or trade shows slow you down. Keep moving forward by putting these 5 things into action. 

Have you tried doing any of these things already? What new lead/customer generation ideas come to mind after reading this blog? Let us know in the comments.

Adam Clarke is the President of 1 Bold Step, a Grand Rapids-based strategic marketing agency and friends of Revel. You can find out more about them at 1boldstepllc.com. View original article. 

For over 20 years, Revel has been building something greater through strong brands that grow business-to-business companies. Connect with us on social media.

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