Tips for Successful Customer Surveys at Trade Shows

October 13th, 2015 by Interex Exhibits



Surveys aren’t the most glamorous part of trade show marketing, but they are one of the most useful. Surveys provide exhibitors a way to check in with customers, garner valuable feedback and gage satisfaction levels.

Where to Start

First, understand that survey writing is a skill. For more sophisticated projects, it might be wise to hire a professional or a research firm to craft the survey for you. If you plan to write the survey on your own, the first step is to determine your objectives. What do you want to get out of the survey? What information do you want to collect, and how do you plan to use it? Your goal should be to create one survey and stay consistent across events. Results are more reliable if the same questions are asked, and inferred trends become stronger the more responses there are.

What Questions to Ask…

Keep the questions simple, brief, and make sure they will elicit the same type of short responses. Attendees only have so much time, so only ask “need to know” questions. You’ll have better luck asking a few good questions than a lot of okay ones. Only ask one question at a time, and provide instructions or clarification when necessary.

In addition, consider how you order the questions. You don’t want to lead the survey taker in any way or ask questions that imply a bias. Use neutral wording, and with ratings questions, provide the same number of positive and negative response options. Put demographic questions at the end of the survey. Think of it like the hook at the beginning of a book or news story—placing the most tedious information at the beginning might cause people to lose interest more quickly.


Customer surveys can be conducted before, during and/or after the show, depending on your objectives. Pre-show questions should focus on customer expectations. For example, you might ask, “What do you hope to gain from attending the upcoming trade show?” During the show, perhaps you might put the focus on details about the onsite experience. Attendees are less likely to remember specific things about the booth design or experience after the fact, so ask those questions in the moment. After the show, seek to understand customer satisfaction.

And Through Which Methods

Several online survey tools exist to make pre and post-show surveying easy to achieve through email. At the show, pen and paper are far too archaic. Not only does that method make the survey process tedious for attendees, but it also makes recording results more difficult for you. Ask visitors to complete surveys electronically—for example, on tablets—and consider offering an incentive for their participation.

How to Handle the Results

Have a plan in place for reading, compiling and using the survey results. Look for trends in the results, and share them with the appropriate departments, along with recommendations for action items. Make sure follow-up happens when necessary. This could range from a one-off personal email, phone call or even a problem resolution.

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