Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nine Ways To Put Your Best Foot Forward At A Trade Show

Writen by Graham Green

Exhibiting at a trade show can be an excellent way for new companies to attract business. However, having a successful trade show experience takes a lot of preparation. With so many booths to visit, trade show visitors don't often linger at one booth—unless you give them a good reason to. Following are nine tips for getting the most out of your first—or fiftieth—trade show.

Know what you need. In advance of the show, make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of the experience. Are you there to educate the public about something that pertains to your business? If so, lots of literature, demonstrations, or PowerPoint presentations might be your focus. Do you want to collect prospects for a marketing list? Then plan to give people incentives to sign up. Are you planning to sell products directly? Be ready to offer discounts, coupons, and free giveaways. Knowing what your goals are will help you decide what you need at your booth.

Know your show. Well before the show occurs, get in touch with the organizers to find out as much as you can about the venue. Where will it be located? What demographic does the show generally attract? What's the layout of the building? Where will you be placed? Can you choose your placement? Will the show provide a booth? Who will your neighbours be? Will there be electrical outlets nearby? What else is provided? Make sure you've given some thoughts to your goals for the show beforehand, as it will affect which questions you'll ask.

Pick the right display. It's important to be sure your trade show stand will attract attention. Pick colours that match your company logo—the more they match, the more slick and established you'll look. Choose a unique design that will also match your needs for space. Think neatness, conciseness, and visibility. Focus on graphics more than copy—offer a few bullet points or a catchy slogan, but save your customer-education efforts for brochures and other handouts, as visitors will rarely stop to read a large block of text displayed at your stand.

Give freebies. Give people a reason to come by your booth. Most businesses give away pens, magnets, key chains, and other small items decorated with the company logo and phone number. Go a step further—bring food (even if your business isn't food-related), give gift certificates and coupons, hold raffles for a valuable product or service you offer, give demonstrations, or bring a PowerPoint presentation.

Be welcoming. Don't just stand quietly at your booth and expect people to come by. Be friendly—strike up conversations. Smile. Make eye contact. Don't eat or sit down at your booth—it'll look like you're taking a break. If business is slow, don't be afraid to get out there and mingle.

Look popular. This is an old—and effective—trick. Make your service look in-demand—and it soon will be. Put up a few strategically-placed "sold" signs on a few of your items—or leave a few empty spaces on your literature display rack to make it look like you've been too busy to replace it. Be sure you really do have enough for everyone, however.

Be interactive. Build an automatic draw into your trade-show display. Have an interactive computer game for customers to play, a scheduled demonstration (post the times in a visible area on your booth), or a survey for customers to fill out for a free gift.

Sign 'em up. Make a business contact at every opportunity. If you're holding a prize drawing, ask the contestants to fill out their name and contact info on their cards. If you're holding a demonstration, pass a mailing list around at the end. Have a clipboard with a mailing list sign-up in prominent view on your table, with pen included. Bring plenty of business cards.

Follow up. This is crucial to your trade-show success. Follow up with the contacts you make in a timely manner. Be sure you have a system in place before the day of the show for tracking, recording, and following up with new prospects.

Not everyone has an ideal trade-show experience the first time. But whether you're new to trade shows or a veteran exhibitor, you're sure to have a fun and profitable time at your next trade show with these helpful tips.

Graham Green is managing director of the banner stand and exhibition supplies company For more information on exhibition stands and a wide range of banner stands visit

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