Maximizing Success at Professional Trade Shows

by Emily Retherford

3 min read

A trade show exposes your company to a wide pool of attendees with a pre-existing interest in your industry. The right advance preparation can help you make the most of the experience – and gain a high return on investment on your exhibitor fee.

Booth Location

When it comes to attracting expo visitors, booth location is half the battle. If possible, select a position as soon as exhibitor registration opens to get the best real estate. A great spot is easily accessible and situated in an area with a high traffic flow. The prime spots tend to be the same in any venue: booths located in corners, main aisles, or just beyond the entrances. Non-exhibit spaces can also provide valuable opportunities. Booths near bathrooms, food courts, or presentation rooms give your business access to customers who are refreshed from a break and ready to dive back in. Be aware of obstacles that restrict traffic, such as narrow aisles, alcoves, or dead ends.

Display Design

At a crowded tradeshow, appearances matter. Successful booths are compelling at a distance and up close. The first step is to create a display that reflects your brand and grabs attention from afar. Bright colours, lighted signs, oversized letters, or unexpected elements can all help you achieve this purpose. As a customer approaches, a hook helps you bring them in closer. A gaming company might install an interactive dance floor game, while a lean manufacturing consultant could use a working robotic assembly line. On the other hand, you could go for simplicity. Clean lines and solid colours can keep the focus on your products and provide a welcome respite for overstimulated attendees.

Staffing

The right staffing decisions can take a trade show booth from good to great. An adequate number of employees ensures that expo visitors don’t have to wait long to learn more about your company. Consider your booth size; ideally, each person should have ample space to meet with potential customers. When selecting the staff members who will represent your company at the trade show, consider both personality and expertise. Employees who are engaging and knowledgeable can create a welcoming atmosphere and answer questions without hesitation.

Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is one of the most important aspects of a trade show. In 30 to 60 seconds, your pitch must communicate what your company does and why it matters. Simple, concise language can cut through the distractions and stimuli at a busy event. For example: “We design custom solar panels for homeowners. Each system is engineered to maximize sun exposure, so most of our systems pay for themselves in one year.”To ensure consistent messaging, meet with your trade show staffers in advance to craft a compelling speech that’s targeted toward the types of people who will be attending the trade show. Discuss ways to adapt it to different audiences, and practise each version out loud until it feels natural.

Collect Contact Information

Trade show attendees are often in the information-gathering stage, they’re planning a purchase or service contract, but they might not be ready to commit yet. Many exhibitors respond to these indecisive customers by applying a hard sell or moving on to a more receptive person. Your company can gain a competitive edge with a friendlier, middle-ground solution: engage in a discussion and collect contact information. This method demonstrates enthusiasm without pressure, putting the customer at ease and clearing a path for future interactions. It also helps you build a high-value mailing list of people that have demonstrated interest and need. The true payoff of trade show participation often happens long after the doors close – often, as a direct result of these initial contacts. An professional trade show can be a valuable resource for your small business. With strategic planning and audience-focused preparation, you can make the most of your investment.

References & Resources

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