In my previous life as a buyer I attended a lot of trade shows. I really thought I knew everything there was to know about them. I was wrong. As a visitor the experience is so different to the Behind The Scenes reality of exhibiting.
Exhibiting at your first trade show can feel a lot like the first day of high school. The bell rings, everyone else seems to know where they’re going, and you’re not even sure you’re in the right building. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re a small company at a big show.
As soon as you register for an event or sign a contract to exhibit, the mountain of tasks looms, from booking your travel and designing your booth to planning your marketing and sales strategies.
Your palms start to sweat as you wonder if ( and how) it will all get done. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help navigate the chaos.
The Early Bird Gets Much More Than A Worm – It’s important to register as early as possible for a trade show. You’ll not just cut down on stress, you may also cut down on costs.
The sooner you start planning, the more likely you can take advantage of early bird discounts. The money you save here can then be directed into other show expenses.
After you’ve booked an event, make a note of all the deadlines you need to adhere to and set calendar reminders. Some show organizers will even provide an exhibitor checklist that recommends when different tasks should be completed.
Read Every Email And Do Your Homework – After you register for a show, the emails will start rolling into your inbox. Event organizers often partner with outside vendors to provide free or discounted offers…like special hotel rates, coupons for area restaurants, free promotion opportunities, and more.
Don’t necessarily judge these emails by their subject line. Although some may seem like an unrelated sales pitch, they could be of value to your company. Take a look before moving them to the trash bin and remember to check your spam folder so you don’t miss any important deadlines reminders.
Design Your Booth Strategy For Conversations – Attendees will see a ton of booths, all essentially identical. A logo, a banner, some clever phrase, and adjectives like ” fast ” and ” scalable”. You have to do something different. It doesn’t have to be amazingly unique, just different.
A visually appealing and interactive booth design will set a strong foundation for success. However, don’t forget your strategy for converting these visitors into qualified sales leads. Establish a system ahead of time for collecting prospective customers’ information.
Decide On Your Main Message – Just like your home page, you get 3 seconds to convince someone to stop at your booth. You’ll need this message elsewhere ( e.g. banner) so you need to decide what it is early on. Remember the goal is to get people to stop, not to explain everything about who you are and what you do. Boil it down to a single, short sentence.
Design Your Banner And Handouts – Printing takes longer than you think because you’ll need to iterate. The colours on your screen aren’t the colours on the printing company’s paper.
Ask Questions Instead Of Pitching – Everyone else ” pitches at” people; be different and actually have a conversation. Good conversationalists are genuinely interested in the other person, what do they do, what are they interested in. If you start chatting they will actually ask you for a pitch as a form of reciprocation. Then you’ve got permission to ” sell”, and they’re truly listening.
Stand Don’t Sit – Sitting looks like you don’t want to be there. It’s uninviting. The head-height differential is psychologically off-putting.
Quality Not Quantity – It’s cliche, but it’s better to have six solid conversations with people who will buy your product than to give away 200 pieces of branded swag to people who can’t remember who you are.
Don’t Forget To Enjoy The Show – It is easy to get wrapped up in everything that can go wrong, which can make trade shows anxiety inducing. However, don’t forget to enjoy the show. Make sure you take a break from exhibiting to attend sessions ( if they are offered), as that’s where you will be immersed in the key themes of the show. That way, when you’re speaking to people at your booth, you’ll be able to have a more intelligent conversation about their top priorities and how that relates to your offerings.
My two days at Seminar were really busy and it was great to meet potential clients and press but also the camaraderie of the other exhibitors was heart warming. There wasn’t that competitiveness I have seen at previous trade shows but warmth and respect. I have to give a huge shout out to my neighbours: Northern Strands, Dennis of Smythe Fitness and 3M. It was an incredible experience for me; I cannot wait to do more shows.