10 Ways To Have A Successful Trade Show Event

Trade shows & business conventions can be a great way to meet new clients, connect with current ones, and stay on top of industry developments. However, without some preparation on your part, attending a trade show can be a waste of time, effort, and money. Follow these 10 tips to ensure that your energy is well spent on accomplishing your goals.

  1. Initiate pre-show promotions. Promote new products & build buzz around your brand or exhibit. Create excitement and have attendees walking into the show saying, "I can't wait to see what these guys have."
  2. Be prepared. Get ready before the show with 3-6 engaging questions to ask at your booth. These icebreakers should focus the attention of the other person and help you stand out. (See tip #9 for what to avoid.)
  3. Provide incentives for people to leave their contact info. Consider using contests, giveaways, or games to collect business cards. A fishbowl for an iPod drawing at the end of the show will provide a substantial amount of addresses, names, and phone numbers. You may consider adding these e-mail addresses to your e-newsletter subscription list (after doing so, remember to send them a greeting e-mail, including an opt-out link). As people come up to your booth to enter the contest/giveaway/game, be sure to engage them - this will help you identify qualified prospects as you organize the business cards later on.
  4. Set measurable goals. Be sure that you have objectives that can be quantified before planning your trade show budget - if not carefully measured and compared against your results, expenses can build quickly with nothing to show for them. Identify your top "must attend" events and prioritize these accordingly; group less important trade shows into the "maybe" pile. For more information, take a look at measuring trade show ROI - how to calculate return on investment for trade shows.
  5. Set an even gender balance in your booth. Some prospective clients may be less likely to approach if they feel out of place, intimidated, or otherwise uncomfortable - and as much as possible, you want to remove any potential barriers to networking with qualified leads.
  6. Create the right first impression. A large part of this starts with the design of your trade show exhibit - for example, any custom trade show display from Apple Rock is designed around the clients' strategic goals, branding, and overall approach in event marketing. However, beyond a visually appealing display, remember that your personal approach can make or break potential opportunities. Practice this and continually strive to improve your first impression.
  7. Keep notes on prospects you meet. Throughout the day, keep a log of the people you meet while networking. For sure, take note of the highly qualified ones, but also the less-ideal opportunities. Having these details on paper will be a great help when sifting through your new contacts post-event.
  8. Avoid sitting, eating and drinking in your booth. The simple act of standing conveys more energy and makes you more approachable. Remaining seated or appearing distracted can look unprofessional and may turn away some qualified foot traffic to your booth.
  9. Minimize the use of trite expressions. By steering clear of generic, forgettable questions ("How can I help you", "How are you", etc), your first interactions with new people will be more memorable, productive, and overall, more interesting to both parties.
  10. Always remember the 80/20 rule. Simple and effective, but underused: Listen 80% of the time...talk 20%.