There are many reasons companies of all sizes and in all industries invest time and money participating in trade shows. From improving brand perception to generating leads to offering insight into what your prospects want/need, questions they have about industry topics, and hesitations they may feel about your brand, trade shows are a valuable resource.
Preparation is critical for ensuring your trade show involvement succeeds. Companies new to trade shows rarely realize what’s needed – so we’ve narrowed down the top 6 items to cross off your to-do list to prepare for a trade show.
Prepare at least 6 months in advance
Trade shows are more than just signing up and bringing pens to hand out. Bottlenecks and roadblocks are unavoidable, so don’t procrastinate. At Leading Results, we have a checklist of 80+ tasks to accomplish before we walk out the door on the way to the trade show. (Depending on the size and importance of the show, it might be worth planning 12 months in advance.)
Ask, “Why am I participating in this show?”
It’s crucial to know your goals so you can set realistic expectations. This will guide you through the planning process and give you and your team a clear vision of what your brand message will be and how to make the most of your time at the show. And you can’t improve if you don’t know where you started, so document all expectations and goals!
Invest in a great booth design and pay attention to your booth location
Your booth is critical for standing out in a sea of colorful signs, free pens, and loud salespeople. Research competitors’ booths and figure out how to stand out from those. Work closely with your booth designer to ensure the right colors, sharp images, and well-situated lighting. It’s easy to get carried away, but you’ll scare people off by trying to fit too much information on your booth. Choose a clear, concise message that gets to the heart of your service or product.
Another crucial detail is your booth’s location. Try to situate yourself near a corner, entrance, or centralized location where you’ll get lots of traffic. Also, pay attention to who your neighbors will be. Place yourself next to companies that complement what you do, not competitors.
Choose and prep your staff
You can have the perfect booth and awesome giveaways, but if your staff isn’t prepared, it’s all a waste. Choose your booth staff carefully. They should be well-versed on your goals, message, and special offers you might be offering. Start by giving them some conversation starters, engagement techniques, and tips for what to wear. If a staff member has their back to the crowd, you’re losing visitors.
Don’t get caught up in the swag
Swag (e.g., pens, stress balls, and chap stick) is fun, but think carefully about giveaways. Can you tie the giveaway item to your brand so it’s memorable even after someone gets home? Plus, according to HubSpot, “When event swag is really lame, it can make your attendees grumble … and look for the nearest trash can.” The planet already has enough trash – don’t contribute more; brainstorm digital giveaways instead.
Prepare for follow up BEFORE the event
Trade show attendees talk to 100+ people at these events. If you don’t follow up with a lead within a few days, they forget you exist. The best way to avoid this is to create your follow-up strategy before the trade show by setting up your messages and workflows. Then when you and your team are tired and busy catching up on missed work after the show, follow up will be easy. For more information on what happens after a trade show, check out this blog.
Trade shows can be overwhelming. It takes a few rounds to get the groove, but they’ll pay off. To get the most of your sponsorship, you can’t over-prepare. If you need assistance with pre-event marketing, we’re here to help.