At Constant Contact, we’re on the road—a lot.

We like talking to customers face-to-face at tradeshows and learning more about their businesses and organizations and the challenges they face.

Tradeshows can be a great way to get leads for your organization, but how do you establish a meaningful relationship with people when you only have their attention for a minute or less?

I asked Shannon Bison, our tradeshow manager at Constant Contact. She attends over 100 events a year and offered eight great tips:

1. Tell people about the show

“If there’s a list from the tradeshow’s host, email attendees and talk about what your booth has to offer,” Shannon says. “And don’t forget to send something out to your customers, too, so they know you’re coming to the area.”

2. Find the Twitter hashtag for the event

“If you find the Twitter hashtag before the event, you can tweet with other attendees and plan to meet up with them in person,” Shannon explains.

3. Don’t just sell

People that attend tradeshows aren’t looking for the hard sell. Instead, try to educate them about your organization and how it can help them achieve their goals. Remember, it’s not all about you!

“We’re all there to get business, but open up by asking prospects questions about their businesses and what they’re looking for,” Shannon says.

4. Offer swag

At the Nonprofit Technology Conference, we offered something a little quirky at the booth—paper-holders.

They quickly disappeared from the table, and now they’re likely ornaments for desks where people could be thinking about email marketing.

5. Offer something sweet

Some organizations will capitalize on people’s tendency to enjoy candy or donuts. Having a jar of sweets can encourage a lot more traffic during a show.

6. Get email addresses

“Capture email addresses from the people you talk to, follow-up is critical to your success,” Shannon reports.

One way to get email addresses is to have a business card raffle for a cool prize. Just make sure to mention that the person will be added to an email list, too!

7. Stay active on your social networks

Make sure to keep your smartphone close. That way you can follow the Twitter and Facebook feeds by attendees so you’ll know what’s trending and who is enjoying what booths and sessions.

8. Follow up after the event

“Follow-up is one of the most important aspects of the show, and that’s where businesses drop the ball,” Shannon says.

“You’ve just spent the time and money to plan for a show and you get a stack of business cards and don’t do anything with them. Make sure to send an email or give a contact a phone call within a week. Thank the person for stopping by and remind them of the great conversation you had.”

Don’t just show up

Shannon warns that you can’t just “show up” to tradeshows, either. The most important thing for any event is staying engaged.

“We all have a thousand things we need to be doing, but don’t sit behind a table on your laptop or phone,” she explains. “Make your space open. A simple hello can be enough to get someone to chat with you.”

Do you have any secrets when it comes to getting leads from tradeshows? Let us know below!