Leveraging Trade Show Award Opportunities

Trade show awards
Don't be modest. Enter the competition.

There are many public relations opportunities available to business leaders who want to maximize their trade show experience and get the most bang for their trade show buck. One of these opportunities, often overlooked by exhibitors, is the best-of-show award opportunities offered at many trade shows, which offers potential for great PR.

These award programs, in most cases, are offered in multiple categories based on industry or application. Often there are categories for “Best New Product,” “Best Small Business,” “Best Innovation,” and many more. If you have a relationship or rapport with the show’s producer, suggest a new category that might make your business more likely eligible for an award.

Where to Find Award Opportunities

The first step, of course, is to research what award programs are available at any given show. This information can usually be found on the show’s website or in the collateral material provided. Remember, if you get noticed and receive publicity for an award/recognition earned at a specific show, the show and its promoters receive publicity and exposure as well. Hence, award opportunities behoove the show producers as well as the exhibitors.

If you have difficulty finding out if there are, indeed, award opportunities, call the show’s producer(s); that’s what they’re there for.


Award submission rules vary greatly. Most have restrictions on the number of words used in copy describing your company’s products, services and its benefits.

While many are free, some shows have fees upwards of $500 associated with award submissions while others limit how many entries can be made per company. There are those, too, that allow submissions in every category available.

Be sure to understand and comply with the rules and requirements as submissions not within the precise parameters of any given contest are often immediately disqualified without any consideration of the quality of the submission.


Most shows require you to submit your product or service for consideration well in advance of the show. The reason for this is so they can announce the award recipients and honorees at the actual show, creating some excitement or a buzz among the exhibitors. This also enables show producers to disclose the information to the media on hand, increasing the potential for publicity/exposure for both the award recipients and the show and its producers.

Deadlines for submissions need to be strictly adhered to as entries made even a little late will generally be automatically disqualified.

Don't Be Modest

Many companies don’t bother submitting for a best-of-show award or simply overlook the opportunity. Statistically, this clearly increases your odds of winning an award or receiving some kind of recognition at a show. Some shows garner a great deal of award entries while others receive only a few. Outsiders don’t know this; they are simply impressed with the fact that you won an award.

Be proud of your products and services. If they are trade-show worthy, then they might be worthy of some critical acclaim as well.

Selecting a Category for Submission

Unless there is neither a cost nor a limit on submissions, exhibitors should carefully consider what product or service to submit and in what category. In that case, create a matrix showing each category and what, if any, of your products might have the best chance of winning.

If there are entry fees attached to each submission, be even more selective about the product and category being considered. Look for categories that eliminate the eligibility of the competition. Some shows have some very distinct categories, including for best products revealed at the actual show or best new product released by a small business.

It's important to carefully and thoroughly review all facets of these contest categories so your team can aptly strategize what opportunities to seize and pursue.

Bragging Rights: Announcing Best-of-Show Awards

If your company, products or services earn a best-of-show award, react quickly to maximize the benefits. Have a press release template prepared in advanced. After the announcement of your award has been made, forward the release directly to the editors of your target publications and to attending media, who will ideally and very likely include your announcement in their coverage of the show.

Media contacts are generally very easy to find. Request a media list from the PR/marketing representative of the show, and contact information for any given trade publication not covering the show can be found on its respective website. Again, this should all be researched and compiled well before the exhibition takes place as to expedite the distribution of the announcement release in a timely manner. Editors are not interested in old news!

Like your other press releases related to the show and otherwise, add your best-of-show release to your company’s website as well as any coverage regarding the award released by the show itself.  Additionally, post your press release announcing the award on paid and free press release sites because winning an award as well as receiving media coverage of that honor are both third-party validations of your success.

Don’t forget to mention the award in collateral and marketing materials as well as sending an announcement to leads collected at trade shows.

Be Graphic and “Seal” the Deal

Receiving an honor such as a best-of-show award is a big deal and should be touted. When winning such awards, there's generally a graphic seal or logo created specifically for award recipients to use on their website and other marketing materials. Apply the graphic on and in your booth at trade shows and secure permission to include a quote or testimonial from the trade show or publication that issued the award to use in your company literature as well.

What awards have you won?

Photo by Sean Locke | iStockPhoto.com

Linda Musgrove
Linda Musgrove is the founder and president of TradeShow Teacher, a full-service trade show training and management firm. Through her result-driven formula, she specializes in teaching companies to significantly improve trade show results through strategic, customized trade show management and training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Training options include phone consulting, webinars, seminars and one-on-one in person coaching.


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