David Rose is a veteran entrepreneur, music lover, tech enthusiast and CEO of Durham-based PRSONAS.

Showing your product at a high end trade show can jumpstart business like a dream come true. But before you start seeing dollar signs, you’re going to see a wash of red ink. Most startups just can’t afford the $10,000 price tag that comes with that kind of event.

Thank goodness angel investors are sometimes real angels – or at least miracle workers. The miracle in this case was an introduction by local angel Jan Davis to the CEO of RetailNext. Some fast talking on my part and we’d worked out a trade – a free PRSONAS smart virtual presenter in return for space in their display at the National Retail Federation’s BIG SHOW in January.

And it worked like a charm. We generated high volume traffic, numerous customer leads (for both companies) and lots of buzz for my startup PRSONAS including:

* Two highly complementary articles in publications including BIZBASH.
* Selection for the prestigious Event Innovation Battlefield, a Shark Tank-like business competition taking place in Atlantic City later this month.

The one thing we didn’t generate, however, was an extra $10,000 entry fee for our next trade show. So to keep the momentum going I created David’s Plan B for A+ Trade Show Exposure sans budget.

* First, I identified the 50 smallest companies attending a high-profile industry show. (The sold-out Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference was my next goal.)
* I drafted emails to each CEO offering them a win-win partnership – FOR FREE – for the duration of the conference.
* A few replied. We chatted, found a good fit. And the next thing you know, I’m demonstrating our product to ALL the big hitters, while Angi, PRSONAS’ traffic-stopping, super smart virtual presenter, is engaging potential customers (and recording their preferences) at WPC.

David’s Plan B works so well that we’ve already found our next trade show and partner for the fall.

Ok, yes, we do create holograms, and that does make PRSONAS a great barter partner for trade shows and similar events. But if you’re in business, you’re making something of value. The trick is finding partners and venues that can help leverage it.

I hope David’s Plan B will help.