“Do we have enough samples?”
“Did we pack extra lightbulbs?”
“Where’s the extension cord?”
“Who ordered the badge scanner?”
“What happened to the tool-kit?”
If you have ever exhibited at a trade show then you panic a little at each of these questions – or at least you can tell a story of your own personal trade show fiasco. There are so many little things that can go wrong.
Now that I am someone walking the aisles talking to exhibitors instead of being one, I wish I knew years ago all the things that I have learned since my perspective changed. So, as the trade show season has kicked-off in all industries, here are my Top 10 Tips for Being a Successful Exhibitor:
1. Set appointments. It is very easy for attendees to become distracted and completely miss large stretches of exhibits. If there are clients that you must see, then set appointments with specific meeting times.
2. Chill out with the catalogs. Seriously, if the only reason you came to the show was to hand me a catalog, then you should have done a mailing and stayed home. Trade shows are about forming and expanding relationships.
3. Stop talking to your coworkers. I appreciate that you like the people you work with, I really do. But if you are talking to them then you are not talking to your customers. Unless you plan on selling to your colleagues you should focus on the people in the aisle, not in the booth.
4. Make noise. There were many booths I walked past without noticing, but it was hard to ignore booths playing music or having some kind of loud demonstration.
5. Smile. Okay look, I completely understand that you have been standing in the same spot all day saying the same thing. Get over it. If you look sad, frustrated, or in any way unpleasant then you make yourself unapproachable.
6. Have a goal. There is a significant difference between talking to an exhibitor that leads a conversation compared to one that is just making conversation. Set goals before the show and focus your actions toward meeting them.
7. Be different. Your competitors go to the same trade shows that you go to. Take a hard look at your approach to differentiating your value. Think about what you can do at a show to genuinely set yourself apart from competitors. Don’t be scared to go against the grain.
8. Burn the booth. No one notices if your lights break, if the table falls apart, or if the scanner stops working. They will remember the interaction they have with YOU – they will remember how you make them FEEL – they will not remember if your sign has been duct-taped to the wall.
9. Hang ‘Em High. Speaking of signs, those signs that hang from the rafters are a little pricey but they are worth every penny for exhibitors. That is definitely the easiest way for your clients to find you.
10. Follow-Up. How many exhibitors say they will contact you the week after the show? How many actually will? The first week after the show is your big chance to show potential clients that you are serious about moving your business relationship forward – especially if you told someone that you would do so. After the first week it is awfully hard for your potential clients to remember you or the conversations you had at the show – so act fast!
Exhibitors, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to answer silly questions all day long. I know how difficult it is to live on hot-dog lunches all week. But you CAN have a good show if you build a strategy and focus your efforts. Good luck!