Trade shows can be a fantastic way of making new contacts in your industry and increasing business. They can also be very expensive. The day of the trade show can pass very quickly, and without a plan you will find you’ve wasted your time and money. By planning ahead, you can get the most out of your investment.
The first task should be to choose the right trade show. Do your research and find out about relevant trade shows. You need to find the right one for your company in terms of location, attendee demographics, and expected footfall. Once you’re happy you’ve got the right one for you, then you need to plan your stand, your plan for the day, and your staff.
Your Exhibition Stand
First of all, you need to plan your stand. Do some internet research of recent industry exhibitions and get some ideas for exhibiting at a trade show. Have a look and see what similar companies have done with their exhibition stand. Consider if you will need any furniture, or props and where to put them. You must check with the trade show organisers to find out what is supplied to you on the day, so you can plan what you will need to take with you, and also work out the best exhibition stands to produce.
Exhibition stands come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are printed just for you. Keep your stands on brand. For text you should err on the size of ‘less is more’. Cramming too much text on your boards and banners will mean it will be too small for anyone to read comfortably. The idea is to tell the trade show attendees what you do, attract them in, and then give them more detail by talking to them and providing them with company literature. Work with your exhibition stand designer to come up with something simple and eye-catching.
Plan your objectives
By working out what you need to gain from the trade show, you can come up with a plan of what to do on the day. Your plan could be to launch a new product, generate sales leads, make appointments for your sales team, or to raise awareness of your brand in general. Your objectives should be at the heart of your planning.
For example, if one of your plans is to collect email addresses for further marketing, you need to have a sign-up sheet with lots of pens available to use. You will also need an incentive, such as a prize draw for those that give you their address. Take the prize and have it on display, and also have banners advertising the prize draw in case you get so busy that you haven’t the time to tell everyone about it.
Brief your staff
You need to take the correct staff to meet your objectives. If the objective is product awareness, then maybe a more technical member of your team would be better than someone from the sales department. You should try and take your more approachable team members where possible. Assess whether non-sales staff could benefit from some sales training and get it in place before the event.
The day flies by very quickly so you need to brief your staff with the objectives and how the tasks will be divided on the day. Create a rota so that everyone gets adequate breaks for lunch and refreshments.
If you want to get a uniform look by getting your staff to wear branded clothing, you need to look into this with plenty of time to get any new items produced. Simple T-shirts or polo shirts with the company logo work well, but don’t waste the opportunity to get your company message splashed across the front and back of your team members if appropriate.
Manning a trade stall can be hard work and tiring, so make sure your staff have adequate refreshments, such as bottled water and sweets to get them through the day. It is vital that your staff are approachable, so keep them motivated and happy to keep those all-important smiles coming.
Do some marketing before the event to let people know you’re going to be exhibiting. Put it on your website and include it in your newsletter. Social media can be a good way of spreading the word before the event, but you’ll be too busy on the day to do much more than share the odd photo. Use scheduling tools to set up tweets and Facebook statuses in advance. Use the trade show itinerary to schedule tweets for appropriate times.
The goal is to get a buzz going around your stall before the event so people make a point of seeking you out on the day. Tell them you’re doing a prize draw and giving away free sweeties and you’ll be hunted down. A busy stand is always a good thing.
Plan in advance and you can make the most of what can be an expensive and tiring, but ultimately worthwhile, exercise. Good luck!