Representing your business at an exhibition, trade show or convention always requires a substantial investment of time and money. While these events are generally attended in the hope that they will lead to new sales and business relationships, they don’t always prove to be worthwhile.
Of course, many of the factors that can make or break the success of an exhibition appearance are directly within your control. With some forethought and planning, these factors can set you up for a greater likelihood of success on the show floor.
Let’s take a look at five things to consider and double-check to ensure that the cards are stacked in your favor.
1. Choose The Right Show
Let’s start at the very beginning of the process of attending a show. The first item on our checklist is ensuring that the event is a good fit for the business and that the attendees are likely to be primed and ready for the kinds of goods or services you offer.
Anybody who has attended more than a couple of exhibitions and trade shows will tell you that they are definitely not all created equal – some might be more or less relevant for your business, some may have been promoted more thoroughly than others, some are hosted in areas where the local community might have better or worse spending power, and so on.
Therefore, it pays to critically scope out all potential shows before you go. Seek out all the material you can find about the event from its previous years, pore over photographs and try to get a sense of whether your business is likely to do well in this sort of environment. Are there any other businesses in your niche with a presence there – and have they returned for subsequent shows?
It sounds obvious, but many businesses forget to do this and often end up spending big on events that don’t ultimately do them any favors. By making sure up front that the show is right for you, you can save yourself some regret and disappointment down the line.
2. Do Your Own Promotion
Many well-respected trade shows have excellent marketing teams who are dedicated to spreading the word about their event. Unfortunately not all trade shows are like this.
It always pays to do some promotion of your own prior to the event. Let your own clients, associates and followers know where you’re going to be and suggest that they drop by to say hello.
It can be tempting to blame the exhibition organizers for a lack of promotion if your booth doesn’t get the footfall you’d hoped – and that can be a major factor – but it’s also true that there’s nothing stopping you from doing as much of your own marketing as you’d like. If nothing else, it’s nice to see some familiar faces drop by.
3. Make Sure Your Presentation is on Point
It’s likely that your upcoming exhibition appearance will be the first introduction for many of the attendees to your business, so put your best foot forward.
Don’t be tempted to skimp on the signage and the design of your booth – a boring or cheap-looking stand is unlikely to inspire any potential customers to look in your direction. High-quality exhibition signage, bold graphic design and bespoke features go a long way in making a great first impression and can help you stand out in a crowded environment.
It’s also vitally important to get clear and simple messaging worked out ahead of time; your booth signage will likely need to communicate well from a distance. Keeping your designs uncluttered and legible will help draw in the crowds.
4. Ensure Your Staff Are Engaging
Having the right people staffing your booth is essential. At a minimum, they should be approachable, friendly and well-presented (remember, they are ambassadors for your business and your brand). If your people seem uninterested, your business will lack engagement and excitement – at least in the eyes of your visitors.
It should go without saying, but ensure that your staff are paying attention on the day. We’ve all stopped by show booths and stands where the staff seemed to be more interested in talking among themselves than engaging with visitors, making you feel like an intruder for attempting to talk to them. Coaching your staff ahead of time to ensure they’re always alert and ready to meet interested visitors is crucial to avoiding wasted opportunities.
After all, this event might be the site of the first meeting between your company and an extremely important customer or business contact – don’t leave anything to chance.
5. Always Follow Up
Your actions following the show are just as important as your approach prior to and during the event. It’s vitally important that you collect information for each potential customer you encounter – sometimes shows will give visitors scannable badges that can help with this, but at the very least it’s good to collect business cards and contact details.
When the show is over, don’t just put all of the cards in a box and lose them in your office. Take the time to go through and reach out to them all, one by one, within a few days of the event.
It can be tempting to see a pile of business cards as just the inevitable junk and detritus of trade shows and conventions, but these are actually valuable leads – be sure to follow them.
An exhibition appearance is as profitable and worthwhile as you make it. With all the expense and logistical effort involved in having a presence at such a show, it’s wise to make provisions and increase the likelihood that the event is successful for you.
By planning ahead, investing in great booth signage, bringing a team of engaging and friendly representatives, and following up with potential customers after the show, you could greatly increase the return on your investment of funds and effort – making both you and your new customers glad you were there.