Your company has asked you to be their representative, you are feeling relaxed and confident. Before you hit the floor running, there are key pieces of information you may have overlooked. This is a guide to help prepare for your first trade show.
Make sure you have a game plan.
If you are an exhibitor, coordinate with staff and assign shifts. If you are by yourself, stagger your breaks for when the floor traffic is slow. If you are an attendee, make sure you have enough time to get from one appointment to the other.
Give yourself enough of time to travel and/or set up.
If you think it will take you one hour to get to the show, give yourself two. We recommend giving yourself more time because just when you think nothing will go wrong, it will. For example, you have all the trade show display components ready to go, but you forgot the power cords– or essential booth compartments were not delivered to the show and are sitting at the UPS hub.
Once you knew the size of your booth, get started with the design, printing and shipping so your booth will arrive on time. Here’s what can happen. You’re setting up the booth … a display panel is missing, a bracket is gone or the printing was marred in transit. Don’t panic! The trade show business center can help save the day. Just know who to call and where the office is located.
Acknowledge everyone that walks by.
Don’t be the exhibitor that stays seated in a chair with a blank stare on his or her face. Engage with people walking by– not with a sales pitch, but asking questions. Let them do the talking. Be yourself! People are more inclined to engage when there is a level of like and trust. Same holds true if you are walking the show floor. Engage with people you don’t know or don’t have an appointment with. Whether you are a buyer, writer or a fellow exhibitor, there’s always something to learn by developing new connections.
Trade shows can be too hot or too cold. Dress in layers so you are comfortable and wear comfortable shoes. Just in case, don’t forget band-aids in your essentials bag.
Bring a bag for essentials
. Items that you will lose track of, pens, pencils, charger, glasses, money, bandaids, should all go into your essentials bag. Pack them along with your trade show registration information. Having to buy essentials at a trade show will cost you time and money.
Keep your leads and business cards organized.
You’re going to meet a lot of people this week and you won’t remember every person you talked with. Bring a notebook. Don’t rely on a business card to have enough room on it to take notes. And many business cards are printed on glossy stock that does not accept ink!
When you get back to the office next week and are settled in, you will probably struggle to recall who everyone was. Sending generic email responses in your follow-up does not have the power that personalized emails do. Remember the notebook, or use the voice record on your iPhone to record your notes before and after your appointments. When you get home, you can download the conversation and not miss a detail.
Be realistic about your goals.
It’s good to be positive about the outcome, but also be realistic. Not every person you speak with will turn into a sale or a lead. And that’s fine! Expecting to speak to hundreds of people will set yourself up for failure. Focus instead on building relationships. Quality versus quantity will have a greater impact on your long-term business goals.
Carefully put away your booth.
Most of the damage that happens to displays happens right after the trade show is over; either parts are broken or lost. No matter how tired you are when a trade show is over and how anxious you are to leave, carefully put it away. Take care of your investment!
. After trade shows, attendees are following up on emails and paperwork, too. Your connection with that person is only one in many people they saw at the show. So don’t be disappointed if results don’t happen ASAP. Just remember to follow up with your leads and remind them of who you are. Continue to engage in the conversation throughout the year, not just immediately after the show.
What advice would you give first-time exhibitors/attendees that you wish someone had told you? Share your experiences. Enjoy the show!