“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” No, silly, not the holidays – trade show season! That’s right – trade show season is in full swing and all of the brands, media, and industry pros are in high gear to ensure a winning season. The months leading up to show are busy, busy, busy as everyone coordinates schedules, makes appointments, prepares materials, and collaborates creatively. Finally, the trade show arrives, and the rubber meets the road as the months of preparation are put to the test. Now, the REAL fun (and work!) begins! Take a look at these best tips for pulling off a winning showroom experience.1. Evaluate and Improve on the Past
Not only is this NOT your father’s trade show, you can’t necessarily rely on what worked even last year. Think of your trade show marketing as living, something that needs to evolve and grow. A static approach is not going to attract the kind of dynamic results you’re looking for. Take a look at your past results and apply future trends to them to boost your plan.
2. Know Your Demographic
You might have a good idea of who your target audience is, but because industry landscapes can quickly change, keep them on your radar. Periodically take a look at the ideal customer you serve to help your brand stay compatible with its demographics.
3. Set Attainable Goals
This almost goes without saying, except that so many people still don’t do it. Whether you set them or management sets them, goals are a MUST. Have something to aim at. Know what you’re supposed to be trying to accomplish. They can be brief and few, but they should be doable and also measurable. The more specific the goal the better. For example, instead of having “increase client care,” a better goal would be “schedule client check-up calls.” That way, you KNOW when you’ve completed and met the goal.
4. Focus on Objectives
Trade show planning time is not necessarily the time to dream big. It’s the time to focus in. Trade show success depends on meeting objectives, so hone in on those. If during your planning you see ideas floating to the surface that might be great but don’t necessarily point toward this year’s objectives, table it to be revisited after the season, when there is time and space to think about larger objectives for the next year.
5. Location, Location, Location
You might be tempted to save a few bucks and stay at a less expensive hotel located farther away from the hotel. However, you will save yourself time and energy (valuable commodities!) by staying closer to the venue. Traffic, cab fares, and other unforeseen nuisances can be avoided by just shelling out a few extra dollars for the comfort of being near the show.
6. Prepare and Organize
Make a list of everything you need to bring and bring it. Don’t forget comfortable shoes, a backup charger, mints, water bottles, Chapstick, etc. Think of things that both you AND your clients might find handy. Imagine if a harried clients stops by and is desperately looking for a lint brush or a nail file. Voila! You thought of that!
7. Staff Your Booth
Never ever leave your booth empty! It’s fine to have a sort of self-service vibe in your booth with brochures and do-it-yourself, hands-on demos and samples. Maybe your staff doesn’t even have to necessarily interact THAT much with visitors. But still – your booth needs staffers to create a presence, to give your booth life, to nudge visitors to ask questions, and most importantly, to show that your brand is about people.
8. Train Your Staff
Make sure that your staff is booth-worthy and booth-ready. All the wonderful products and amazing exhibits a booth can offer will never override a lackluster or ignorant staff. Make sure your staff has talking points to help further conversations. Make sure they know how to best connect with clients and prospects. Train them to be comfortable in a variety of atmospheres that they might encounter on the trade show floor. While some people will be more savvy than others in hob-knobbing with customers, all staff can be trained to be alert, friendly, and helpful.
9. Push Them Out
Remind your booth staff that the aisles around the booth are just as important as the booth itself. They can greet passersby and even step out and meet attendees as they stroll by. Sometimes, breaking the barrier at the invisible booth threshold is just what a likely potential might need you to do.
10. Take a Lap
Walk the show floor prior to the show’s start to get a lay of the land, so you’ll be able to efficiently get coffee, grab a meal and run to the restroom. You’ll also be a handy dandy guide to anyone else looking for those places.
11. Network, Network, Network
You’ve sent the emails and the reminders and made your client lists and more. The pre-show networking has been done. At the show, however, networking is exponentially more important. This is the chance to have face time with prospects and customers. It’s the chance to shake hands and make a warm impression and to encourage your brand. Don’t expect your people to come to you – they are busy! Learn your clients’ schedules. Invite key contacts to dinner, plan coffee with new promising potentials, and always pack more business cards than you think you need. Oh, the regret if you find yourself without one when you’ve just met Mr. Right Customer.
12. Always Be "On"
It’s important to remember that, at a trade show, you’re always on stge. Someone’s always looking. You’re always making an impression. You’re representing the brand and visitors are interpreting your listening skills, body language, and manners and associating that with the brand. So treat each and every visitor as a VIP!
13. Be An Advocate
You’re representing your company’s brand. Be aware of that. Know your stuff. Know the products inside and out. Know how to access online media on your phone or iPad if need be. Be aware of your client’s objectives and how your company can help them meet their goals.
14. Work Hard, Rest Hard
Trade show days are not like normal work days. The pace is different. The demands are different. The energy is different. The schedule is different. Mentally prepare yourself for the show, but also physically prepare yourself. You will need to work very hard with little respite. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a break. You should! Take 5 minutes to drink some water, eat some protein, freshen up, and jump back into the game.
15. Be Thankful
While we are all well-aware of the many moving parts involved in OUR end of the trade show, it’s easy to forget that every part of the trade show has lots of moving parts. Don’t forget to show your appreciation to the service and labor teams who helped you. Trade show days are hectic, and service people are often overlooked. Your kindness toward them will so appreciated and it might go a long way toward moving you to the top of their to-do list next time.
As soon as possible, it’s a good idea to gather feedback on what worked and what didn’t. Before everyone is on to their next big task and the rush of the show calms down and grows lukewarm, collect everyone’s thoughts about the show. These tidbits are invaluable as you plan your next event.
17. Be Your Best
Again, you’re always on. Prepare to be your best at the trade show. Get plenty of sleep. Stay hydrated. Eat a vegetable. Iron your clothes. Have comfortable shoes. Wear a smile.
18. Pack Your Tech
Don’t forget your chargers, earbuds, power banks, and other tech gear as you leave home. The last thing you need is the stress of running out of battery as you’re trying to make a contact.
19. Expect Anything, And Be OK With It
The unpredictable is going to happen. People will show up early or late or not at all. The Wi-Fi will be sketchy or unavailable at times. The display will tear or break in one spot or another. These things just happen. Stay calm and focus on the solution. As the old saying goes, “Be like a duck – stay calm on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath!
20. Have Fun
Yes, you’re at work, but no one says you can’t have fun doing what you love. Enjoy establishing relationships with prospect, being in a different city, and building a team with your work friends.
This article was inspired by "10 Tips To Gear Up For A Busy Trade Show Season" by Ryan Lovell and first appeared at skyline.com