For every business, big or small, participating in trade shows is an effective way to engage and sell your products to prospective buyers. It provides a unique un-matched marketing route to meeting new buyers, engaging with existing ones and creating a business reach far beyond your natural geographical boundaries.

However participating in a trade show is not simply a matter of carrying your wares and putting them up. While you could still do it, to get a better return on investment on your trade show you could follow our checklist that has been prepared.

  1. Select the right trade show to be in

There are literally hundreds of trade shows happening all over the world in every conceivable economic sector, making it virtually impossible for any business to participate in every one. You need to carefully select the right trade show to participate in. To know what trade shows are happening you could easily access the information at Eventseye or at Trade Show News Network .

Selecting the right trade show to participate in calls in for some background research. Most good quality trade shows are sold out before the dates and so if you are looking for a good booth position, its best that you do your background research several months in advance. The key aspects to bear in mind (rather than going by previous participation or hearsay) is to look the following points and take a decision.

  1. How many visitors came to the trade show in the previous 2 years? What was the audience profile who attended the show?
  2. Who were the exhibitors who participated? How many of them are ‘known’ to you. What kind of booth space did they take up?
  3. What is the focus of the exhibition? Many exhibition have multiple focus areas and you will need to determine if there is sufficient focus of the trade show in your area to give you the best results
  4. Does the exhibition have educational sessions for visitors? Is it free of paid? What is the amount?
  5. Is entry free to the exhibition free of paid?
  6. Do the organizers facilitate pre-show meeting fixing? The sole purpose of you going to a show is to generate and close sales. Many organizers today facilitate visitors in fixing meeting with trade show participants well in advance of the show dates, thereby ensuring that you have scheduled meetings during show days.
  7. Does the show allow general visitors to come in? Or do they restrict it to only business visitors?
  8. What the available booth sizes? What are the booth rentals? What is the floor plan layout of the booth? This will enable you to quickly determine where and what size booth you want to take up.
  9. What do the organizers provide by way of booth rental?
  10. What are the additional advertising and promotional options available to you within the show? Are there any booth restrictions in terms of booth height? What you can put up on the walls?

2. Prepare your booth design

As a marketer having attended several trade shows both domestically and internationally, I am quite surprised at how little emphasis is put in by many businesses in preparing an attractive booth design for themselves. Whether you’re taking a 4 square meter booth or a 400 square meter raw space, there is no excuse in not doing up your booth attractively.

Think of your booth as your retail store with plenty of potential customers walking by. Would you as a potential customer walk into a booth that wasn’t done up well? Or would you automatically give a second look and thought to an attractive booth?

It is best to use your own in-house design team to prepare the booth design or use the services of a professional service provider to create the design. You need to keep the following in mind while designing your booth

  1. The size of your booth & the traffic flow of visitors, i.e. the directional traffic flow.
  2. The products that you will have on display and how you want your buyers to interact with your product. Will there be a demo? If so you need to plan for a demo area.
  3. Meeting space. Where will you meet your customers? If you have a small booth but have assistants, it is good idea to take your prospective customers over to the bar lounge or coffee shop to conduct meetings rather than stand for long.
  4. What is the core messaging that you want your buyers to see? This should be a combination of both product and company messaging. After all buyers are as interested in your company as in your product specs.
  5. Storage area. You don’t want customers to see those ugly cartons lying behind your booth or overflowing bins of coffee cups. Hide them away in a storage area.
  6. If you have bare space, you have a greater degree of freedom to create your own unique booth design that best describes your company. If you are designing for a bare space, it is best to hire a professional design and trade show agency . Ask your agency to show you at least 2 alternative designs so that you have a choice!
  1. Plan your trip in advance

When you go to participate in a trade show bear in mind the following checklist.

  1. Be clear from the word go as to what products you will put up on display at the show. You may need to carry along samples of the same.
  2. How will the products be shipped to the show? What’s the shipment procedure and the shipment timelines? You may need the help of your Trade Show Agency to help you in managing the shipping requirements.
  3. When will the booth be set up? What is the stall handover time?
  4. What the marketing collaterals you will carry? They could include business cards, company brochures, product leaflets, gifts to visitors, price sheets, and roll up standees. Always plan to carry some extra collaterals.
  5. Who all will attend the trade show? It’s a good idea to have a few people along with you so that each of you can attend to customers.
  6. Make travel arrangements in advance. The bigger the show, the greater will be the demand for hotel rooms close to the venue as would be air fare costs. The sooner you make your travel arrangements, the higher is the saving you will generate.
  1. Making it a success

The true success of participating in a trade show is when you come back with a handful of closed orders and several more in the pipeline. You could chose to go into a trade show hoping that you will find customers or work the smart way and ensure that you get new customers. The smart way of participating in a trade show involves doing the following:-

  1. Inform your prospective customers that you will be participating in the show. Send out invitational emails to them to connect with you at the show. Set up meeting schedules with them in advance. Your prospective customers are highly likely to be coming to the show to meet potential sellers and therefore the best way is to reach out to them in advance and set up meetings.
  2. Use the organizer’s facility in scheduling meeting. Make sure that you set up your trade show details in full and give prospective site visitors coming to your page, enough information that warrants them asking to meet up with you. Connect with them immediately on LinkedIn and set the ball rolling in discussions.
  3. At the show use every opportunity to network. Most shows have networking galas. Make sure you exchange cards and start conversations.
  4. Promote your participation in the trade show across all your social media networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, G+ and Twitter. Keep dropping updates on your preparations and begin engagement with your prospective buyer much before you get to the show. This will ensure that he will remember your booth and remember your company even during the show dates as he meets other competitors.
  1. Post show follow up

Once you are back from the show, ensure that you send out a thank you email within 48 hours to all the people you have met. Assign someone from your team to follow this up with a personal phone call to each person. Reinforce your company’s product by sending them the product brochures and price lists once again. And lastly add these into your mailing list for all future shows.

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