Trade show success is about more than just showing up. Getting the most out of your time and expense begins long before the kick-off reception. Here are some thoughts on how to maximize your trade show preparations. This is the second part in this multi-article series. Click here to read Part 1: Pre-Planning >>>
Plan your booth. Make sure it conveys your messaging. Do you have special needs i.e. unique equipment that needs a special location or space? Is it eye-catching? Do you need to order coordinated shirts? If you need to get new banners or backdrops created, start early – it can take longer than you think. Is it in a good location? Some organizations allow you to choose your location, will be open to requests or give preference to sponsors. Call and talk to the planner and see how you can ensure you have a location with good foot traffic. Is it a table-top show or a show with a 10x10 space? What is included in your space (table? chairs? table cover/skirt?) Do you need to sign up for electricity? Is there internet in the room or do you need to order it?
How many people do you need at the booth? Registration and travel costs can be restrictive, but having more than one person is a HUGE plus. Having 2-3 people will allow full table coverage (and breaks) and time to schedule meetings and give presentations. If several people are attending from your company – consider matching shirts. Discuss proper attire and conduct with new representatives.
Make your travel plans. If you want to stay in the trade show hotel (and who doesn’t… isn’t the networking the point?) get your reservations early. Rooms sell out, and the special convention-rate is always for a limited time.
Contact attendees ahead of time. Get the attendee list from the convention planner. Send pre-event postcards giving your potential customers a reason to bring that postcard by the booth (a cool giveaway, exclusive drawing etc…). It serves to get your name/product in front of people initially and it will draw your customers to come talk to you onsite. Consider using multiple media forms in your outreach. Email them a reminder to bring their postcard. Call them to set up a time to meet on site or invite them to dinner. Consider an invitation for a quick 5-10 minute conversation in the hallway – after all, they are there for the same reason you are – to network! Know who you REALLY want to talk to – identify 6-10 great leads BEFORE you get to the trade show and make sure you make the connection. Having a few quality conversations that can convert to sales is better than 300 attendees that come by your booth just wanting a free tee-shirt.
Giveaways. If you are planning to give away trinkets – get them ordered.
Use social media. Effective use of social media can build excitement, show your support of industry events and even attract your customers to attend. Be creative – release a video message or preview your new products to be unveiled. Keep your message strong by making plans to keep using social media while at the event.
Pre-plan your event follow-up. Knowing what post-event letter, package of sample materials etc… you are planning to send and the time frame will ensure that you get the right information for targeting during the tradeshow itself. And it always looks good to keep your promises to follow up with additional information promptly.
INSIDER SECRET: If you planning on attending this show year after year… go out of your way to be nice to the association/event planners! They are your gate-keepers for great booth spaces, presentation times etc…
What do you do to prepare for a great trade show? I would love to know what other trade show professionals are doing to maximize their experience.
Up Next – Part 3: It's Showtime!
Rebecca Wyhof is the President of Blue Roof Strategies, a boutique communications firm for companies and nonprofit organizations. For more about Blue Roof Strategies and to learn how they can help you achieve your goals, visit: www.blueroofstrategies.com.