17 Tips for an Awesome Trade Show Experience
Get the most out of your next trade show experience by following a few of these simple tips.
Have a Clear Message
Discuss with your booth staff exactly what your purpose is at the show. Review precise points of how your products or services benefit your customers, and remind your staff to focus on solving the customers needs NOT doing an information dump about your product.
Have a Great Visual to Attract Visitors
Even if you have a sparsely decorated booth, invest in a large tablet device to display a slide show of your recent work or products.
I once even saw an exhibitor rent a TV and play Disney’s animated kid’s movie “Tangled” over and over. It had absolutely NOTHING to do with his products or industry, but it caught people’s eye and they wandered in.
PS: That tablet? Be sure to lock that puppy up. People will take anything. I once caught someone trying to walk away with my car keys that I had stashed behind a literature display.
Greet Every Visitor
Take the time to welcome everyone as they enter the booth, even if you are with another visitor. Just a quick hello will make them feel welcome and increase their likelihood of sticking around longer.
Don't Crowd the Booth
Don’t let booth staff crowd the booth. Booth staff mingling only with each other can put off potential visitors. Remind your booth staff that the visitor is the #1 priority.
No Gum, No Smokes
Seriously, no gum. Or cigarettes, for that matter. Remember, you are dealing with the public while you may be inclined to sneak out for a smoke break, the general consensus these days is that smelling like cigarette smoke is taboo. Slap on a patch and take one for the team for the day.
Invest in Professional Looking Literature
If you are using the same brochures from 2009, it’s time to chuck them and fork out some cash for not only an updated look, but surely updated product information. It’s imperative at these shows to look professional and have up reliable information.
No foul language, no rough housing, no flirting with the other vendors- this is a business event, not an eHarmony mixer.
To Give Away or Not to Give Away?
Give aways are an awesome way to attract people into your booth. However, they can also lead to what I call “Trinket Whores” – people who are looking for free stuff, no matter what it is, that distract your booth personnel away from potential prospects.
True story – years ago, I was so fed up with “trinket whoring” that I left my giveaways at home and instead put out a bowl of colored rubber bands as a bit of a social experiment. By the end of the show, the rubber bands were all gone, but I somehow had better quality leads.
If you do have a giveaway, offer something unique or save it just for people who are actually interested in your product. If your giveaway is a pen with your name on it, you need to rethink your game.
Remember Quality over Quantity
While it’s nice to get every name in the book, it’s no fun wasting time and effort following up with people who have zero interest in your product or services. Try to weed out the tire kickers and trinket whores from true potential contacts, keeping in mind that the person you think may be a tire kicker, may just be a little shy.
No explanation needed. If your staff looks like a bunch of wrinkled slobs, then how are your customers supposed to take your business seriously?
Shop the Competition
During slow periods take the opportunity to wander around and see what your competition has to offer. What does their display look like, are their people professional, do they have a special offer going on, how crowded is their booth?
I used to have a colleague who insisted on having his booth location directly across or next to his competition, just so he could poach people leaving the competitor’s booth and invite them into his. It’s an aggressive sales tactic to be sure, but damn if he didn’t know exactly what his competition was up to.
Personally Invite Key Clients to the Show
Reach out and personally invite your key existing and potential clients. Often times shows will allow you to request X number of free passes, offer them up to your best potentials. If you do have a potential client stopping by, try to arrange a specific time so you can plan your booth staff accordingly.
Invest in Proper Displays
Coming from someone who has set up, taken down, and traveled with more booths than you can possible imagine, I highly recommend you stop wasting money on the cheap plastic literature holders you get at Staples and invest in some metal ones that will survive long term. Also, even if you can’t afford a full blown booth display, check out the pull up banners. You can easily have two or three printed up for a DIY booth backdrop.
Avoid Booth Burnout
Use 80% of your effort taking care of your customers and 20% of your effort taking care of yourself. Trade shows can be absolutely exhausting. Make sure you pack plenty of snacks to have hidden away, plan breaks for booth staff, and take a breather.
Take Out Your Staff
Take your booth staff out afterwards. Working a booth can be loads of fun, but it can also be hard work. Make a plan to take your booth staff out to dinner after the booth is packed up and ready to ship out. Nothing says thank you like a nice cool beverage.
Don't Trash Talk the Crazies (until later)
When you meet a crazy person (and there’s likely to be a few), keep it on lock down. We all know there are some pretty crazy people who can show up at these shows, but having your booth staff trash talk ANYONE while the show is going on is unacceptable. Not only is it rude and unprofessional, but the last thing you want is a potential client overhearing booth personnel gossiping about other show attendees. Save it for the dinner.
True story – every year I used to participate in an annual vendor show. All of the exhibitors were fairly close friends as we had been in our industry together for quite some time. One of my fellow vendors had a product that was basically a rack of sorts that held an array of tubes. Every show she’d fill the display rack with tubes, and EVERY SINGLE YEAR this guy would come and finger the tube on the left back side corner (always the same position every year). He’d seriously stand there awkwardly for several minutes pawing this tube, rolling it around between his finger and his thumb. And every year, when my friend would get fed up and walk away from this guy he would steal the tube and put it in his pocket! He’d walk around with it for the rest of the show, still rolling it around while it was in his pocket. Talk about a nutter.
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An automation solution like Infusionsoft (which we get KILLER deals on, by the way) can save you so much time and energy following up with all your trade show leads. Long term lead nurturing options keeps you on your clients’ radar and increases your revenue.
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