Trade shows offer the best opportunity to meet and talk with customers. They also provide a chance to network within your industry and scope out the competition. But, for someone just starting out, a trade show can be overwhelming and distracting. Each year companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars attending industry events. But, as with any investment, when your company pays to participate in a trade show they expect to see a return. Here are five basic things every beginner needs to do to make the most of a trade show.
The size and location of your booth matters – Placement at a trade show can mean the difference between cultivating new business and being an afterthought. Sign up early and see if you can get a list of other exhibitors. Pick a spot that will showcase your booth. Equally important is the size of your booth. You want to be sure to make a splash, but you also need to stay on budget. Many companies have a number of configurations to choose from depending on the size of the space available. Consider how many people will be in the booth and how much display space you need. Don’t choose a larger space if you can’t fill it. Don’t choose a small space if you’re going to look cluttered and unprofessional.
Identify outcomes from the start – Begin with the end in mind. What are your objectives in attending this particular show? With whom, specifically, would you like to make contact? Have you alerted existing customers? How many leads do you want to generate? Know what you want to show for your efforts before you go. Set goals.
Market the show before you go – In order to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself, it’s important to market the show. Pull together a list of existing customers who will be attending and send out an invitation. Create a list of potential customers and invite them as well. This is a great opportunity to be creative. Consider a giveaway that requires your guest to come by the booth for a drawing to win an iPad. One high-end gift can be a much better draw than all those smaller promotional items.
Train and rehearse – Don’t wait until you arrive at the venue to run through your presentation. Before you leave your office you should do a complete run through. Set up your booth and ask your colleagues to play the part of trade show attendees. Walk through your spiel until you know it well enough that you can edit as needed. Don’t expect that everyone will stay focused. Pay attention to visual cues to find those potential leads who are truly more interested in your business than collecting trade show goodies. Confirm your schedule of booth assignments before you leave. Everyone should know when they’re scheduled to be in the booth and what free time they have to walk the floor.
Walk and talk – Make sure you have enough people on hand so that you’re not trapped in the booth. You want to stay fresh. One of the best ways to do so is to walk the conference floor. This is your chance to network with existing and potential customers. It’s also your best chance to take a close look at what your competition is offering. Do not skulk or spy on the competition! Introduce yourself to other vendors and invite them to come by your booth.
Don’t be fooled. Trade shows are much more than a chance to get away and eat on the company dime. Decision makers attend, new products are introduced and key business-to-business relationships are born. Go prepared to make the most of it and you won’t disappoint.