Hamilton Communications: Tips for a Successful Trade Show

A successful trade show is easier if you follow these tips:

  • Make the show part of your overall marketing strategy. A show can cover all or part of the process from prospect to follow-through, to closing the sale.
  • Collateral materials or "take-aways" reminds visitors about your company after the show. These materials should be consistent with your overall marketing image and message. "Show Specials" should clearly state their time-limited urgency.
  • Staff your booth with enough people. Allow for visiting other exhibitors, meeting privately with key accounts, spying on competitors, as well as lunch and bathroom breaks. Never staff a booth with one person. If necessary, get non-marketing staff, friends or adult family members to help. At international shows, at least one person should speak the local language.
  • Plan your booth layout and structure. This is usually a compromise between strong impact and portability & ease of set-up. Attendees give you 3 seconds to make a "gotta stop" first impression. A simple 10-foot booth with just the back curtain (provided free by most show organizers) is usually not enough. Portable collapsible photo panel displays can be used at other corporate occasions (like open houses, press conferences) but cost several thousand dollars.
  • Arrange for audio-visual equipment, bulky computer hardware (large monitors particularly) and the requisite power in advance. Some shows need 30 days notice, and many require a deposit with your order.
  • Allow plenty of time for booth set-up. Ship your booth, a/v equipment, and marketing materials in advance (international shows will store them for you until show set-up). Leave plenty of time for set-up, equipment malfunctions, and touch-ups (your booth and equipment may be showing road wear). Give booth staff time to overcome any jet-lag.
  • When several people are each transporting booth and show materials, set everything up before packing, and make sure everything is brought by someone.
  • Never tear-down your booth before the show is over. Amateurs and cheapos will lose those last-minute attendees, who have a panicked urge to buy.
  • Follow-up with your leads as soon as the show is over. Show your prospects that you are serious about having their business. Usually less than half of the exhibitors follow up on their leads!

When you are exhibiting at a trade show, you often forget something. There is an exhibitor ethic to always help out a fellow exhibitor (even if a competitor). This is really true on international shows, where exhibitors loan their rental cars or translators.

This checklist should save you-the most common mistakes that many companies make. Successful exhibiting!

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