Making the Most of Your Trade Show Exhibit

As a longtime marketing professional, I’ve had numerous opportunities to take part in the wonderful world of trade shows – both as an attendee and as an exhibitor. While I truly enjoy wandering the exhibit halls picking up tchotchkes and chatting with booth staff to help me make informed purchasing decisions, to me, there’s nothing quite like being on the other side of rented carpet.

Exhibiting at a conference or trade show is not only a terrific way to gain exposure for your company, but it also enables you to personally connect with a variety of people whom you may otherwise never get face time with – be it current customers, industry colleagues or, of course, potential clients.

Like every other marketing endeavor, the success of your exhibit greatly depends on detailed planning and sound strategy. Below are a number of tips to help you get the most bang for your marketing buck.

Stage 1: The Pre-Show

· Plan for Success - Use of a timeline is a great way to stay organized and keep you on track in the midst of planning chaos. Give yourself 12 to18 months to prepare for a show. Start at the 18-month mark with the basics—budget, space location and purpose; then set a timeline for specific deliverables involved in pre-show promotion, booth design, shipping, etc.

· Publicize, Publicize, Publicize - Make your presence known before the show via a press release, newsletters, mailers, email blasts and social media. Get creative and initiate a contest to generate a following at the show. Planning to follow up prior to the show is just as important as following up after the show. Develop a post-show communication plan that will allow you to follow up systematically after the show.

· Design for Attention - Even if you don’t have a high budget for décor or a 10x10 or 20x20 display, always have a great banner. Don’t clutter the banner with text; it will not lure guests in. Instead, focus on having simple signage with one eye-catching graphic. When planning for giveaways, do something other than the usual tradeshow fare of pens, cheap bags and useless trinkets. Get creative with your item so you draw in visitors to your booth and your company makes a strong impression.

· Be Prepared - No matter how well you plan, there’s always the chance you may encounter an unexpected glitch. To avoid any extra costs and unneeded stress, have your booth confirmation, list of vendor contacts and load in and set up times readily available at all times. Know the rules and regulations of the show and be sure you have backup of any audio-visual presentations.

Stage 2: Show Time

· Start with Staffing - Make sure all staff members know their role and are trained properly. A good way to help prepare staff members is to give them talking points so they can practice beforehand. Don’t overcrowd your booth with personnel, as it can be intimidating to visitors.

· First Impressions Count - You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so make it a good one. Engage visitors in conversation, maintaining a warm, friendly and professional demeanor.

· Collect Contacts - Sounds like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many companies don't do this. Simply asking for business cards, or having staff with iPads on hand to collect email addresses and take notes on visitors will make it easy to follow up with leads after the show.

Stage 3: The Post Show

· Debrief -The show may be over, but your work is not yet done. After dismantling the booth, meet with all staff members to discuss key issues from the show and any trends that emerged. Back at the office, immediately start implementing your follow up plan. Timely follow up helps increase the chances that visitors will remember who you are, which can create a prospective lead. If you have a lead, schedule a meeting as soon as possible.

· Promote (Again) - Consider developing a post-show communication piece, such as a press release, mailer or email to demonstrate follow up and involvement in the industry.

· Measure Success - Measurement and tracking after the show are essential. One way to track the success of a trade show is to look at your online platforms: Has traffic on your website increased? Are you seeing an increase in fans/followers on social media platforms?

A successful trade show does not happen by accident. It requires diligent planning and preparation, and a game plan that will help you achieve optimal success. If you are looking for assistance with trade show promotion, contact Malouin Marketing by email or phone for a free consultation.


Malouin Marketing
2110 Artesia Blvd., #356
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
(310) 880-7890

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