15 Trade Show Tips for First Time Exhibitors

So you’ve decided to exhibit at a trade show. Congratulations! This is going to be one of the hardest, most rewarding things you can do for your business. There’s a lot more that goes into a successful trade show experience other than showing up. But have no fear, we’re here to help you through your first trade show experience. We’ve compiled a list of 15 tips for a successful first trade show.pexels-photo-269448

  1. Pre-show Brainstorm
    • It’s important to pick the right trade show. Do a little research, ask others in your industry for commendations. Make sure you’re asking these questions: Who and how many attend the show? How have other companies benefited from participating? What press is there? Be clear about your takeaways from the show so that you pick the right one for your business.
  2. Booking the Booth
    • Do it early! Most shows sell booths on a first come, first served basis. The earlier you book, the more likely you are get a high-traffic, prime location. Read the paperwork after you book – what is and is not provided (flooring, table chairs), how much and what kind of insurance is required, what are the size restrictions for displays, how much is electricity and WiFi, etc.
  3. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
    • Start as early as possible. Know how you’re going to measure your ROI, what worked and didn’t work for your marketing. Read your contract! Make a checklist of everything you’re going to need. Do a mock run through to make sure your displays fit and the flow works. There is a lot of prep work that goes into exhibiting at a trade show. If you can’t dedicate the amount of time it deserves, it may be worth the investment to hire a trade show management team.trade show floor
  4. Pick the Right Display
    • First impressions are everything. It takes one-fifth of a second to form a first impression of a website, 94% of which is related to design. A well-designed, creative booth will go a long way in getting traffic to stop at your booth. Understand how your brand imagery will affect your consumer opinion. Find ways for attendees to interact or experience with your product or service.
  5. Partner with Other Businesses
    • Collaborate with other exhibitors who have the same target market as you and trade leads and contact information. Do not partner with companies who are direct competition, but rather companies that offer complimentary services or products to yours. This is an easy way to double ROI.
  6. Get on the Digital Horn
    • Send an invitation to attendees and encourage them to stop by your booth or make a meeting with you. Depending on the size of your trade show and the amount of exhibitors hocking product on the showroom floor, there’s a good possibility that a majority of attendees won’t stop by your booth. Send an email to your current mailing list, promote your attendance on social media using trade show specific hashtags. Some trade shows will even get you an attendee list – reach out and let them know you’ll be there too.
  7. Plan a Few Meetings
    • Reach out to attendees 4-6 weeks in advance of the show and schedule meetings. Show goers time is precious. Make sure you get face-to-face time with your ideal customers.
  8. Qualifying, Not Quantifying, Is What Counts
    • Understand what the client is looking for and be transparent with the cost of your service or product. Establish who they are; make sure the person you’re pitching to is a decision-maker. Ask open-ended questions to really understand their need and better serve them.
  9. Get Your Swag On
    • Promotional giveaways are a great way to extend your brand presence beyond the confines of your 10×10 space. Totes, wearable items and light up trinkets go a long way in passively getting the your brand and company in front of show goers.
  10. Wheel of Fortune
    • Draw people in with the chance to win. Give away one of your products or services. Go beyond the fish bowl business card dump. Jazz up your raffle with an antique lottery basket and tell people to come back for the drawing at the end of the show. Have a collection of prizes to give away and have a spin wheel. There will be a line wrapped around your booth, which will cause even more people to stop and see what the fuss is about.
  11. #Hashtag
    • Use the power of the hashtag and create a buzz at your trade show. It’s likely your trade show organizers will have a social media push of their own. Piggy back off of their engagement and use trade show specific hashtags to get on show goers social feeds. Offer something special to those who stop by and mention they you via the #hashtag.pexels-photo-776615
  12. Trained, Knowledgeable Staff
    • Have at least two people man the booth. Depending on the size of the show and the size of your booth, you may want to increase the number of staff. Bring your best. No newbies. You want educated, passionate team members to be able to speak to and convey the magic of your product or service. If you can’t spare employees, you may want to considering hiring a trade show staff.
  13. After-Show Networking Events Etiquette
    • Post-show gatherings are a great way to network with industry leaders and make lasting partnerships with both customer and competition alike. But keep it classy. You want to be remembered for your business savvy, not your ability to slam a few free cocktails. Keep conversation fun, but professional. Keep your dress code to something that would make your grandmother proud. When in doubt, think of what grandma would do.pexels-photo-274192
  14. Follow the Lead
    • Follow up with all those business cards you collected and badges you scanned within a week of the trade show. Show goers are bombarded by new product, the latest tech, the next big thing at trade shows. Take the time to follow up with the really interested potential clients you met. Reintroduce yourself to those who didn’t have the time to stop and talk. Do not waste the opportunity to gain a new customer and close a sale.
  15. That’s a Wrap!
    • Take the opportunity to publicly thank all of those who stopped by your booth. Let your established audience know how the show went. They care about you and want to know that you’re doing alright, they want to be engaged with a company they know and like. Include them in your journey. Who knows? There could be another business partnership or customer contact in it for you.

Don’t let this long list intimidate you. The road to a successful exhibiting experience is long and hard, but totally worth it in the end. Have a question we didn’t answer hear? Leave a comment below or visit us online. We also have this handy Guide to Successful Exhibiting, which goes a bit more in-depth to the topics covered here.

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