Trade Show Lingo You Need to Know

By Emily Moorhead

Whether you’re a trade show newbie or seasoned vet, the set of terms used before, during, and after a trade show can be downright confusing. Trade shows seem to have a language all of their own. When planning your trade show visit, it’s important to understand what organizers, exhibitors and attendees are talking about. Before heading to your next trade show, make sure you’re comfortable with the following terms:

  • Networking – Interacting with other people to exchange information and develop professional relationships, especially to further one’s career.
  • Exhibitor – Anyone who has a booth on a show floor.
  • Attendee – Qualified business and industry representatives that attend a show.
  • Booth – The area in which an exhibitor can set up their station, usually containing tables, chairs, pipe and drape, garbage cans, and other necessities with the intention of showcasing their particular company, product, or service.
  • Pipe and drape – Freestanding partitions that section off booths or other areas in a trade show.
  • Aisle – Booths are placed in a straight line forming this. Aisles are often numbered 100, 200, 300, etc. to help people identify booth locations.
  • Exhibit hall – The area where the booths are housed and where the majority of the trade show takes place.
  • Loading dock – An area where large trucks can back in to load or unload into the venue. This is often used by exhibitors during setup and tear-down days.
  • Pitch – A line of talk that attempts to persuade someone or something by providing engaging information and important details.
  • Lead/Contact – A person or entity that has interest and authority to purchase a product or service. This step represents the first stage of a sales process.
  • Badge – The identifying marker that everyone on the show floor has to wear at all times.
  • Media/Press – Any individual employed by a civilian radio or television station, newspaper, magazine, periodical, or news agency that gathers and reports on a newsworthy event.
  • Judges – Independent members who judge products for an awards program.
  • Speakers/Presenters – Professionals that conduct seminars, panel discussions, or one-on-one meetings at the resource center.
  • Prototype – A first model of something from which other forms are developed or copied.
  • Inventory – Used to describe the goods and materials that are held for the ultimate purpose of sale. Having inventory means having ready-to-sell products on hand.
  • U.S. Patent – Set of exclusive rights granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time, in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention. Patents are a form of intellectual property.
  • Intellectual Property – Refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is protected in law by patents, copyright, and/or trademarks.
  • License agreement – An official document in which an inventor grants the right of their invention/product (including their patent) to a company that allows that company to manufacture, market and sell the invention/product. In return, the inventor receives a negotiated royalty per unit sold at wholesale.
  • Royalty – A sum of money paid to a patentee/inventor for the use of a patent.
  • Sell sheet – A one-page color document designed to attract attention and call out critical facts and details about a product or invention.
  • Suitcasing – Illegally exhibiting at a trade show without purchasing a booth. This includes walking the show floor with your materials or product.

There’s one thing for certain – trade show floors are always abuzz with people chatting, planning and networking. With so many opportunities in one place, it’s important to familiarize yourself with trade show lingo before attending a show. 

Matthew Tagliavia