Tips for a Successful Trade Show Experience

  • Feb 1, 2023

So, you've made the investment to participate in the Trade Show, don't let it go to waste. With some advanced planning and these tips, you can make sure that the experience provides the Return on Investment you expect.

1. Know your goals.

Be aware of, and clear about, what you want to accomplish. Are you looking to build brand awareness? Get solid leads? Sell? When you reflect on your experience, how will you measure success?

It's important to go in with the end in mind as different goals require different strategies. For example, if your goal is brand awareness, you'll want to focus on a well branded booth display, branded staff apparel and giveaways that are visible as people are walking around the show.  Great giveaways for brand awareness are colourful, simple and are items that others see people with (grocery bags, headwear, balloons). Giveaways will be more generic in nature, appealing to a larger audience. Your goal is to be seen, promotional literature or messaging is simple and minimal, it's about getting the logo and brand top of mind. Staff the booth with energetic and engaging individuals who can draw in the masses and be memorable.

If you are looking to cultivate leads, you'll want to ensure your booth is set up to have the space and materials for effective conversations. Giveaways will be focussed on having ample decoration space to include contact information (magnets, notepads, mousepads) and will be geared towards your target customer. You will want promotional literature, usb drives or QR codes that point to product websites with additional information about products or services for prospective customers to take with them. Staff your booth with individuals well versed in your products and services that can answer detailed questions and will be involved in the post show follow up.

As you can see, knowing what you want out of the show will help you really target what you need to put into the show. Trying to be all things to all people will not only lead to increased costs, but also be confusing for staff and employees.

2. Spread the word ahead of time. And during. And After.

With so many exhibitors there, make sure your customers (and potential customers) know you'll be there and give them a good reason to track you down at the show. It could be a special offer, giveaways, draws or just encouraging them to pop in to see you. You want to start building enthusiasm to give them a reason to seek you out.

During the show, stay involved on social media, sharing pictures, going live or just regular updates.  (Remember, you can schedule social media posts if you don't have someone at the show who can maintain your social media.) Have someone monitoring your social media (whether from the show or alternate location) as people may connect there to find out which booth you're at or to check if you're at the show. You don't want their messages to go unanswered.

Especially if your goal is about building new leads, make sure you have a plan to connect with any contacts made once you return to the office. And if you had a draw, make sure you do it and communicate publicly in some way who won right away. 

3. Professional look and feel.

You'd think this one goes without saying after you've made a considerable investment to participate but with one walk around the Trade Show floor, you'll see hand written signage, tables without table covers, clutter, you name it and it really impacts the brand messaging you want to portray. Invest in professional signage and banners. You can get custom table covers, or at least have stock table covers that can hide extra stock and materials you have stored under tables. If you have to store extra items, a free standing wall or matching bins can hide the clutter and will keep it looking professional and organized.

Focus on brand colours and remember, less is more. Open, simple booths are more inviting and less overwhelming. It doesn't have to be a lot, but a few key professionally created pieces will go a LONG way.

4. Dress the part.

Ensure your staff are easy to recognize (at the booth and around the show) with branded apparel. Everyone doesn't have to be dressed the same, but having some consistency (like similar colours or styles) and making it clear who is available to help will go a long way to engaging attendees.

Name badges help customers know who is there to help and studies have shown that communication is enhanced when people know each other's names.

5. Be engaging.

Yes, Trade Shows are an extroverts playground. It's all about encouraging those passing by to come in and find out more about you. This is not in everyone's comfort zone.  

Staff the booth with those who are more comfortable approaching people they don't know, engaging in small talk, and saying hi to people who walk by. Schedule staff strategically, pairing up the most outgoing employees with those who are a little less comfortable approaching others. That way, one can draw them in and the other can spend more time in conversation. Consider the flow of traffic - When will it be the busiest? What types of attendees come at what times?- and staff accordingly.

Draw people in (and make it easier on staff who are less comfortable approaching strangers) with a game, activity, draw or free giveaway. Ensure your staff have some key talking points for starting up a conversation. For example, even the ability to say "Have you entered our draw?", is an icebreaker most staff will feel more comfortable with than standing at the front of your booth saying hi as people go by.

6. Don't leave them empty handed.

Not only have giveaways become an expectation at Trade Shows, they do serve a purpose towards your ROI for the show. Trade Shows can be overwhelming for attendees, they breeze through and see so many things and talk to so many people, you want to make sure that when they return home, they remember you. This is where giveaways come in. Yes, you could pile a bunch of literature on them but really, if 50 booths each gave them one piece of paper, do you think they're going home to read all of that literature?

But, if you put something useful and interesting in their hand, that they will use right away, that has your logo, perhaps even contact information or other brand messaging, they'll remember you every time they use it and have an easier time tracking you down after the show.

For tips on selecting great giveaways, check out this blog post.

To check out our flipbook with Trade Show ideas, click here.



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  • Tags: Trade Show, Marketing, Giveaway, Promotional Product, PROMO, Branded
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