Tips and Tricks for Membership Recruitment at Trade Shows



Live Events are Back!

I recently attended my first trade show since the pandemic struck. After two long years of selling memberships to prospective members over the phone and Zoom meetings, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to walk a busy show floor to prospect and build business relationships. Here is how I prepared for membership recruitment at the show, which resulted in developing strong leads and maximizing my time on site.

What does it take to optimize the associations’ membership dues model? To enhance association revenue and engagement effectively, start with comprehensive association research, which entails a deep dive into quantitative and qualitative member perceptions of value.

Associations can craft a strategy based on data-driven insights by analyzing non-dues revenue streams, evaluating member participation in events, and understanding the competitive landscape. This holistic approach promotes a balanced, value-centric model fostering sustainable growth.

1. Do Your Homework 

Take the time to research the exhibitor list ahead of time to develop a top prospect list and identify their locations on the show floor. Armed with the list, I developed a game plan to connect with key contacts during the show. If I had not taken the time to create a plan, walking a busy show floor with no information on the exhibitors would be very overwhelming. 

2. Set Meetings Ahead of Time

A few weeks before the show, I went through my sales pipeline to see who would be attending the show. Many of the companies I was currently in discussions with regarding membership were planning on attending. Not only was it exciting to put a face to the name of potential members I had been emailing and talking to, but this also presented the perfect opportunity to schedule time together on-site and take the next steps to close the membership deal. Trade shows provide the ultimate opportunity to build relationships. After selling in a virtual environment, it was extra exciting to connect in person. 

3. Create Opportunities for Connections

During the event, the association offered a coffee hour for new members and encouraged them to stop by to meet staff and learn more about upcoming events, chapter, committee participation, and more. This also presented the perfect opportunity for recruiting new members because I could invite prospects to join in and meet at the booth. Invitations were sent a few weeks prior to the trade show, which ensured the coffee hour was on their calendar when they arrived. Another added benefit was that the prospects were able to meet new and existing members, which helped reinforce that joining the association was a good decision. 

4. Show Up and Socialize

It is easy to pass on receptions after a long day of small-talk and socializing on the show floor. However, some of the best conversations and connections occur at networking receptions. This is not the time to be a wallflower. Push yourself to attend the receptions, introduce yourself and get the conversations started. The best way to get a conversation going is to ask simple and friendly questions. A few examples include –

Is this your first time attending the show?

How long have you been working in the industry?

How has it been getting back to in-person meetings?m

5. Follow-Up

When the show is over, it is crucial to follow up within 24-48 hours. If you wait too long to follow up, you will get busy and back into your routine and lose the momentum gained at the show. Make your follow-up brief, personal, friendly, and request a time to continue the conversation whenever it’s convenient for them. 

Trade shows are the go-to meeting for the industry and provide the ultimate membership recruitment avenue to prospect, build upon existing relationships, learn the latest trends, and more. It can be overwhelming to prospect in a live environment after selling in a virtual one for so long, but with the proper membership recruitment strategy and these helpful tips, you will have a successful event!

Do you need help with member recruitment? Email us at if you would like a free consultation to evaluate your membership recruitment strategy.


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