Marketing & Branding Advice

Random Trade Show Tips for Exhibitors

Tradeshow Booth


Having recently returned from the LMA (Legal Marketing Association) Annual Conference, and adding a few more things to my running list of trade show “don’t forgets,” it occurred to me this might be a good topic for a blog post.

If you are a marketer who has to go to (or help prepare others at your firm for) trade shows you exhibit at, you may find this random mix of tips helpful. So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. Make sure it’s a worthwhile show
    Before you commit thousands of dollars for a booth space or sponsorship, make sure the people attending are your target market. Do your research and get feedback from your clients who have attended in the past. If none of your clients have attended, it’s probably not worth you going (unless you are trying to break into a new market).
  2. Stay on brand
    So often I see exhibitors with booths that look nothing like their firm’s brand, it amazes me. Your booth is a chance to make an impression and build brand awareness. Don’t confuse your audience by creating a booth that looks different than your website and marketing materials.
  3. Meet with clients while there
    Make appointments early with existing clients for dinner or drinks, especially if they are not local. It’s a great time to socialize while you and get to know each other better.
  4. Find out which prospects will be attending
    As an exhibitor you should get the attendee list, so check to see if any prospects will be attending. Without being a creepy tradeshow “stalker,” try to find a way to sit with them at lunch, or meet for a drink.
  5. Pick an easy-to-assemble booth display
    I can set up my booth in under 5 minutes. The pop-up backdrop is one piece and weighs under 40 pounds including the travel case. No screws. No panels. No Velcro. I can check the case on the airplane without paying for more than a regular checked bag. It’s fantastic. If your booth is a nightmare to set up, throw it out and get a new one, it’s just not worth the stress.
  6. Bring carefully selected “swag”
    Don’t bring the obvious items that everyone else will have (stressballs, pens, pads, water bottles, mints, tote bags, etc.) Find something really different that will stand out. Make it fun! People love bringing swag home to their kids so don’t be afraid to be playful.
  7. Smile, a lot
    No one will come to a booth if the person in it is not smiling. Stand up, say “hi” to passersby, ask them politely if you can introduce them to your company. And never look at your cellphone when attendees are in the exhibit hall.
  8. Don’t try to sell
    Very few attendees will be looking to buy professional services right at a tradeshow. If you seem pushy, people will stay away. Use this time to build brand awareness and offer advice and guidance. Ask attendees a lot of questions, see how you might be able to help them, get their business card, and follow up later.
  9. Pack early
    3 months ahead of time, make sure you have enough business cards, brochures, and swag items. Set up your booth to make sure nothing broke when it was last shipped home.
  10. Get friendly with the show organizer
    The person running the show will most likely be running it again next year, and is a great source of info and contacts. Introduce yourself, complement him/her on what went well, and give constructive feedback on what can be improved. A little friendliness may get you a much better booth location next year.
  11. Don’t forget to pack… (a random list of of things I find useful to bring)
    A black sweater or jacket for layering (it’s often freezing on the exhibit floor)
    Packing tape and a small knife/scissor to cut it
    An extension cord with 3 prong (to plug in laptop at the booth)
    Flat, comfortable yet professional-looking shoes
    Kleenex (for the booth)
    Cough drops (for all that talking)
    Tylenol (for all that standing)
    A good book (to read on the plane, and possibly before bed if you have a moment to relax, which almost never happens.)

Hopefully, these tips will help you prepare for your next trade show and you’ll have a more enjoyable, beneficial experience. A little bit of planning can make for a smoother, less stressful event!

Vanessa’s article first appeared in SMPS Boston’s Outlook, April 18, 2016.

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