7 Essential Tips For Tradeshow Newbies

When you think about participating in a tradeshow, do you find the prospect a little intimidating and perhaps a little overwhelming?  You are not alone.  Planning for a successful tradeshow can be a lot of work and can eat up valuable time and money that could otherwise be used elsewhere.  For this reason, it is very important to have a strategy so that you can minimize the stress while maximizing the rewards.   I have participated in many tradeshows over the years, big and small, and have learned some valuable lessons in the process.

So, what can you do to ensure that get the most out of your tradeshow experience?

  1. 1.                   Pick the right show

There are many tradeshows to choose from and they are not created equally.  Choose a show that is going to maximize your exposure to the people who will potentially purchase your product or service.  If you are appealing to a specific target market, you may want to participate in a show that is focused on that theme.  For example, if you design wine cellars, you may want to participate in a wine show.   However, if you are hoping to expose your wine cellars to a larger and more diverse audience, a larger show, such as the Home and Interior Design show, might be a better option.  If you are not certain which route to take, do some homework.  Visit the tradeshow websites and speak with the organizers.  They will be able to give you valuable information and answer any questions you may have.  Remember to read the tradeshow guidelines before you sign the paperwork.  These are usually available on the tradeshow website and will specify what can and cannot be done at the tradeshow.  Lastly, if you know which shows you wish to participate in, book them early in order to get more booth options.

2.            It’s all about size and location, location, location

Depending on the show, there will be a variety of tradeshow booth sizes and locations available.  The most common booth sizes are 100, 150 and 200 square feet and their configurations will depend on the layout of the tradeshow floor.  When considering size, you will need to consider your budget and how much space you require to properly exhibit your product.  The size of the booth will determine its cost and there are often additional costs if it is a corner booth.  When selecting the location, ask the organizer for your options and find out who will be exhibiting in these areas.  If you are selling massage chairs, you may not want to be next to the guy with the loud microphone strapped to his head.

  1. 3.                   Put your best foot forward

The purpose of exhibiting in a tradeshow is to generate business, and to generate business you need to speak with your potential clients.  Since most tradeshows prohibit exhibitors from approaching people in the aisles, it is critical to make an excellent first impression.  If you have a boring banner strapped to the back of the booth, few people will stop and take notice.  Consider having a booth created by Xibita (The Portables), PacBlue or another display company.   Displays come in all shapes, sizes and price points and most companies will help you with the design work, if needed.  Most displays are fairly easy to set-up and take down and they usually come with their own, compact carrying cases.

  1. 4.                   Get all your ducks in a row.

 Weeks before you hit the tradeshow floor, there are things that you need to address.  Most tradeshow booths do not come with carpet and, if you want underlay, it is extra.  My feet highly recommend it.  Other services like electricity, wireless Internet and furniture rental are often available for a cost.  Most of these items need to be ordered at least a month before the show.  I also recommend creating a Tradeshow List.  This list not only contains the obvious items like business cards and brochures, but others like spare light bulbs and tape.  It is also wise to bring a portable vacuum cleaner and duster.  Rather than gathering all the items each time you are planning a show, put the items in boxes so that they are ready to go when you need them.  If space is an issue, consider putting your booth, boxes and any other promotional giveaways in a Vancouver self storage facility.  The cost is very reasonable and promotional giveaways will be safeguarded.

  1. 5.                   We all love a great deal

One effective way to get people’s attention is to offer a special show promotion or giveaway and it does not have to be expensive.  I have seen attendees walk by with branded balloons, rubber pens, bags of rice and building levels.  Alternatively, you could offer a special tradeshow discount on your product or service and advertise this with an attractive sign and special coupon.  Whatever you choose, remember that the goal is to get people’s attention so that you can speak with them about your product or service.

  1. 6.                   Bring the A team and show up to win

I am always amazed by how many companies staff their booths with people who would rather be elsewhere.  At one tradeshow, I watched as a sales representative sat on a stool for the entire three day show and read a book on his iPad.  The only time he looked up was when people approached his table.  At other shows, I have seen people who looked like they just finished doing work in the garden.  As you have probably figured out by now, planning and preparing for a tradeshow is work, so when the day arrives, bring your good people and your game.  This is your time to shine and to do the best job promoting your service or product.  Consider yourself an actor on the stage.

  1. Measure your return on investment

I know that this sounds very “financial”, but it is important to measure the success of the tradeshow so that you can determine if it was worth the time, effort and money.  Some companies use sophisticated devices like lead trackers to measure how many people visited their booth and others keep manual records.  It is really up to you.  At the end of the show you should be able to get a sense of how much potential business you generated and have some leads that you can follow-up on in the coming days and weeks.  Ask potential customers how they heard about you and keep track of how many came as a result of the show.  After all, a tradeshow is just another marketing tool and unless it produces revenue, the money is better spent elsewhere.

So, if you are considering participating in a tradeshow in the coming year, reflect on these tips and see if any work for you.  With a little planning and strategizing, tradeshows can be an excellent method to increase your revenues.

Tracy McEvoy has been managing commercial real estate for over 25 years and has held senior management positions with several of Canada’s largest real estate companies.  Presently, she runs Maple Leaf Self Storage Inc. in Canada and has over 14,000 tenants.  Maple Leaf Self Storage has been helping families and businesses for over 30 years.

5 thoughts on “7 Essential Tips For Tradeshow Newbies

  1. Great tips, Tracy….I am sure that many people will benefit from your experience in and suggestions for a successful approach to participating in a trade show.
    I also agree with your analysis of many who have not done what you do….and how irritating is it when you actually want information on a service or product and the person in the booth is disinterested, poorly prepared or sometimes not even there!

    • Thanks for your comments Sandy. I think that some business owners forget that their people are an extension of their brand. When they staff their exhibits with poorly prepared or disinterested staff, they are actually harming the brand that they have worked so hard to develop and promote.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Rachel. My goal was to help new trade show exhibitors get the most out of their investment and perhaps remove a little bit of the anxiety and uncertainty that they must feel. I wish you much success with your new business!

  2. Thanks Tracy for the reference. I am happy to report that Xibita and our division of The Portables have recently aquired PacBlue Visual Solutions- our latest division. We are officially a one-stop-shop! As a token of gratitude for your reference please mention my comment and name when contacting us and recieve 10% off your banner purchase! Happy “trade-showing” everybody!

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