To ensure that you get the best possible return on your investment, you need to make sure that you plan in advance, prepare well, and follow up promptly. By following these basic steps, you can build a solid foundation for success at any show.
Stage 1: Planning
Before you book a space at any trade show, it’s important to do your research. Exhibiting at every single event that remotely covers your industry is simply unfeasible, so you do need to be picky. You need to look for the events that will attract the largest number of prospects for you; don’t just think about the industry but about the role of the people you’re trying to connect to, and choose the events that they’ll be attending.
If you’re looking at a regular event, it’s advisable to attend the show yourself before you book your space there. This will give you a chance to assess the demographic it attracts and, if it’s regularly held in the same venue, will help you choose the best positioning for your booth.
Once you have chosen the right show, you need to book as early as possible so that you can choose the most advantageous position for your exhibit. This is where your research can help – many think that the busiest areas are the best place to be, but if the show is really crowded then congestion can be a disadvantage. British trade show attendees tend to turn left as they enter the show; Americans turn right. Bear that in mind when you think about where to book!
Stage 2: Preparation
Once you have booked, it’s time to prepare. First, you need to set clear goals for the event – what exactly do you want achieve? This will in turn influence the kind of activities you plan for the show, which in turn has an impact on the design of your exhibit itself. For example, basic lead generation can often be conducted quickly without using much space; more focused sales may mean that you want to keep the attendee around for longer, so you might need to integrate seating and conference areas.
You also need to prepare your booth staff. Make sure that you have enough people to man the booth, allowing for breaks and for activities away from the booth – to network with other exhibitors, attend seminars and conferences, and generally benefit from the event. You should also make sure that they’re well-trained, familiar with your message and with the right confidence and enthusiasm to convey it well.
Finally, you need to prepare your contacts. Make sure that your prospects know you’re going to be there – let them know where to find you and what you’ll be offering. If there are specific prospects that you have been trying to organize a face-to-face meeting with, find out if they’ll be there and invite them to your booth – or to lunch!
Stage 3: Follow Up
It’s important to bear in mind that each visitor at a trade show will be stopping at a large number of booths – yours is just one brand in the crowd. What you do after the show ends can make the difference between whether that prospect remembers you or not. By gathering accurate lead data during the event, you can organize a follow-up afterwards. It doesn’t need to be anything complex – just a simple email saying how nice it was to see them at the show can work wonders – but it reinforces the connection made at the event. Just make sure that it’s done promptly; if you leave it too long it could damage your connection by making you look lazy or give them the sense that they are not a priority.
You also need to promptly analyze your performance. What worked for you, and what didn’t? Follow up on your preparation by putting together an assessment of how well you met your goals. This will help you move forward to the next show, where you can build further upon your successes.
Each stage – planning, preparation and follow up – is just as important as the others, and skimping on any one aspect could significantly reduce the potential return on your investment. However, follow the stages properly, and you should be well on your way to success.
By: Fred Attrill –