Trade shows have changed a lot in the past years. They used to be associated with endless rows of booths, cheap promotions and aggressive salesmen, but in this day and age you’d be surprised to see the captivating and extravagant shows they put on. Most major trade shows also feature a panel of industry leaders, influential speakers, not to mention famous musicians. It all comes together to give you that “wow” Hollywood effect. 

Needless to say, that this makes them a very effective way of promoting your startup or small business. These changes in strategy have made trade shows a lot more interesting for both potential clients and collaborators but this also means that it has become a bit more difficult to stand out from the competition. 

I’ve never been to a trade show. What should I expect?

If you’ve never been to a trade show it can be very intimidating, but don’t worry. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to make the most of your experience there. 

A trade show is essentially an exhibition. You can expect representatives from businesses belonging to various industries, just like yourself, to attend so they can promote their products or services. These events usually last for several days and are held in larger cities, in convention centers. They can be open to the public or attendance can be restricted to industry members only.

Trade shows provide companies with exhibit space but they also organize networking events, arrange for media presence and there’s typically a multitude of workshops and presentations. 

You need to prepare yourself well in advance because the fee for the exhibitors can go up to thousands of dollars, depending on how elaborate the trade show is.

Know what goals you want to achieve beforehand

You might be interested in connecting with dealers and suppliers, launching a new product or selling a particular amount of you inventory. You need to decide on this before attending, since this will help you choose the trade show that best suits your plan, come up with the most effective strategy and invest in the proper promotional materials. 

How do I choose a trade show?

You choose the trade show based on your target audience. Who is most likely to be interested in your products or services? You can research what the objectives of the event are and who else will be attending, then you’ll know what kind of audience the organizers are working to attract and if that fits your goals. 

What about budget?

If you want to get a substantial discount, it’s better to book early as opposed to just a month or so before. The money you save you can invest in a bigger booth or more striking displays. It’s also a good idea to make inquiries regarding the location of your booth, check out the lighting conditions and find out if that’s a low or high traffic area. 

Let relevant contacts know you’re attending

This means clients, supplier and any other businesses you’re collaborating with. You’ll want to inform them you’re attending, give them your booth number and invite them as well. 

How do I set up my booth?

The key to making the most of your time at a trade show is to create enough buzz around your booth that people will want to stop by and check out what you’re offering. That means you set up a booth that stands out, something that makes people want to take out their phone and upload selfies to social media which translates to free publicity for you. 

For that to happen, first thing you need is an attractive exhibition display. All your promotional materials including the displays should be easy to transport so you can get more use out of them in future trade shows. They should inform at a glance, whoever is passing by, the most important details regarding your products and why it’s better that what your competitors currently have on the market. 

Be careful that you don’t overdo it with the flashiness. It should stand out but not burn your retinas. The product has to be center stage. 

Most attendees are drawn to booths that offer some sort of demonstration. This gets them involved and they’re more likely to remember you and your product. Extra points if they can actually interact with products but if that’s not really feasible, you may want to have a flat screen that plays a video as a demonstration. Moving pictures are much more effective. You don’t have to buy the screen, you can rent it, that’s what most of the other exhibitors do. 

It’s also better if you arrange to have someone assist you because the interaction between you two will make presentations feel more engaging and it has the added benefit that you can take a break without being forced to leave you booth empty. 

Meet the neighbors

Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to develop valuable business connections. After you set up your booth, take a stroll around the “neighborhood” and introduce yourself to everyone else and inquire about their products. During the event they’ll refer customers to you and vice versa.   

Now when it comes to talking to potential customers, you should be friendly and inviting. Strike up some conversations and listen to what they have to say. You can advertise while you’re answering their questions and this way you don’t come off as pushy or desperate. A nice trick is to have a portfolio handy which you can use to illustrate your explanations. This sort of closeness is far better at making them remember you and perceive you as trustworthy than if they only hear you talking to them as a group during the presentations. 

Giving out some freebies like a sample or gift bag will help you compile a list with e-mails which you can use to contact them after the event.

Using social media throughout the even is also very effective in generating more contacts and new business relations, plus it’s added media coverage. 

Published by Cynthia Madison