Anybody who has attended a trade show, either as an exhibitor or as an attendee, knows what an overwhelming experience it can be. Trade shows are a combination of information overload and a non-stop parade of new faces, combined with sore feet and an aching back from hauling all the literature and samples collected over the course of the event.
Take heart. They are survivable and can be very good for your business. Here are some tips that will help you come out of a trade show alive and thriving. Many of us are both exhibitors and attendees at shows. We’ll start with some reminders for exhibitors.
These are a staple of the trade show booth. They are the quickest and easiest way to get your contact information out there. Give one to every person you talk to. You never know who will be your next great client. Also, give careful consideration to how many cards you think you will need to take with you—then triple it. Make sure you also have a collection of cards for other people back at the office so you can direct attendees to the right person.
Printed and Digital Material
This is every bit as important as business cards. Business cards give your information, printed and/or digital materials provide everything else. When your client gets home, they will look at your business card and they may remember you, but may not remember what your company does. Your materials are the tools they will use to sell your products when they get back home. Make it easy for them to get in contact with you and be sure to capture contact information so you can follow up with them. Make sure your organization is easy to find and contact on the internet (so those potential clients who never look at all that beautiful material can still locate you).
Show and Tell
This one is pretty obvious. If your company produces a tangible product, have examples in your booth. If you can, have samples attendees can take with them. Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies believes the best way to sell her product is to put it in people’s mouths, in other words give them a sample. The same holds true for you. Pens, key chains, and other handouts are nice, but what do they tell a prospective customer about what your company does?
Dress sharp and look sharp. Remember why you are at the trade show. Talk to attendees, don’t wait for them to come to you. Be on the prowl, step right up and introduce yourself and your company. That brings me to the most important thing; product knowledge. Have lots of it and don’t be shy about spreading it around.
Dress for the Long Haul
You are going to be on the floor for a long time and will cover a lot of ground. Comfortable shoes are your best friend. Bring a change of shoes. You’d be amazed what a difference a simple thing like different shoes can make. Wear comfortable clothes but make sure you go any lower than business casual. You want to look like somebody company reps want to talk to.
You probably have a list of companies you want to visit. Exhibit hall maps are available online and you can search for the location of your targets. It’s smart to make a point of visiting them on the first day. By the third or fourth day you may well be thinking of reasons why you don’t really need to see them. Sore feet are excellent debaters.
These are a critical component of trade show success. Go over the schedule early and make sure you have the symposiums, etc on your schedule. Shows provide a wealth of information. Industry leaders and experts are anxious to share their knowledge with you. Take advantage. Seminars are also a great way to learn about products and trends. A bonus is that they let you sit for a while and still be extremely productive.
Whether you intend to or not, you will collect a lot of stuff. Brochures, flyers, tote bags. Pens, key chains, samples, and all sorts of other handouts will invariably end up in your hands. Something you can put them into that keeps your hands free is vital. Backpacks or bags with shoulder straps are OK, but could still leave you with an aching back. A better solution is one of those folding cats with a milk crate or similar device you can wheel behind you and let stand as you talk to people.
As with exhibitors, you need to have an ample supply of business cards—two or three times more than you think you will need. Don’t be shy about passing them out. The exhibit atmosphere is perfect for chatting with new people who know things you need to know and making connections that can help you come home with new business, tips to generate more business, and ideas on how to operate a more profitable business.
Education and networking are the two biggest reasons for attending trade shows. These tips should help you accomplish more of both.