8 Steps to a Successful Trade Show
Trade shows are a great place to build brand awareness, and showcase your products or services to thousands of potential buyers. They are also a great place to network with other professionals in the industry, scope out the competition, and generate leads.
While trade shows are valuable as a marketing medium, planning to exhibit is a lot of work and can be a significant investment. It can be easy to forget everything you need to do to prepare for the event. One mistake can mean the difference between a successful trade show or a disastrous one, and the costly fees that go with it.
For a successful event, download our Trade Show Checklist and follow these 8 steps:
1. Submit Your Application Form
Before any trade show, obtain and fill out the application form from the event organizers. In most cases, you can download the application form on the trade show’s website, but you may also have to request one by calling a representative for the trade show.
Deadlines for when to submit your application and payment are often on the form itself, so note the key dates to submit both. Depending on the trade show, you might have to pay a deposit to reserve a booth space or pay for the space in full when you send in your application.
Some trade show representatives follow up with you after you submit your application; however, it’s always a good idea to check in with them to ensure they have received everything. Once everything has gone through, you’ll be asked to choose where you want your booth to be on the floor.
Once that’s finished, there may be additional paperwork you have to submit, depending on the event’s requirements. One major thing you need to submit is proof of exhibitor insurance, and you’ll most likely sign a contract waiving the trade show of liability if any accidents or incidents occur on the trade show floor.
2. Determine Services Needed and Submit Exhibitor Package Forms
Once your application is submitted, you’ve paid your fees and signed your contracts, the real work begins. Determine what you’ll need for your booth, whether it’s carpet, lighting, iPads, electricity, WiFi or more. Find out if the trade show provides furniture for your booth as part of your exhibitor package. For everything else, such as lighting or audio/visual, either rent what you need through your trade show representative or their recommended service providers.
Do you have everything you need to make your booth stand out? Check out the “Exhibitor Package Forms” part of our Trade Show Checklist for a list of services you may want.
3. Prepare Show Promotions
One of your primary goals for a trade show is to get foot traffic to your booth. That means you need to promote your presence at the trade show starting before and during the event. In the days leading up to the event, you can promote your booth number on social media or through pre-show mailers. Plan for your promotional materials to reach your target market in time for the show. Statistics have shown that 70% of people plan which booths they want to visit in advance of a trade show, so pre-show promotion is a great investment.
Another way to promote your company’s trade show booth is to take out advertisements in the provided show materials given to attendees. You can also choose to purchase a sponsorship option through the trade show, such as having your logo placed on bags or being the sponsor of a breakfast.
Once people are coming to your booth, decide what you will do to leave a lasting impression. Giveaways, such as pens or product samples, are always a great idea; an interactive kiosk or booth is another way to make an impression. Have press kits on hand too to give away to reporters and journalists. Whatever you decide to do, plan your promotional material well in advance, so it’s ready to go in time for the show.
4. Get Your Booth Materials Ready to Ship
Whether you are bringing a portable display or arranging for someone to set up your booth, advance preparation is key. Order any signs, displays or promotional material and repair any materials as needed. Whatever equipment you need to bring, from light bulbs to power cords to literature racks, should be packed up for shipping. Check with your trade show logistics providers for deadlines on when things should start arriving at their warehouses and when they will be available to be picked up to ensure an on-time booth setup.
5. Book Your Hotel, Air, Transportation, and Training
Most trade shows held at convention centers offer special discounts for an attached or adjacent hotel, but reservations should be made well in advance, as hotels can book up quickly.
You have a little more leeway for booking your flight, and if you need to budget for additional transportation, do so. You can either ask your staff to book their own or go through an agency.
Don’t forget training! As reported in EXHIBITOR magazine, “Only 26 percent of exhibitors conduct training for all or most events, and more than 50 percent rarely train or never hold exhibit-staff training sessions.” Teaching your staff how to monitor their body language and give them talking points, so they present a clear message about your product or service. Also, consider doing a walk-through of the exhibit hall before the event, so they don’t get lost trying to find their booth day-of.
6. Arrange to Ship Everything Out
Shipping trade show materials is often the trickiest part of preparing for your trade show. If you ship your materials out too early, you may spend extra money on storage. Ship too late and the materials might not arrive in time for the show.
Identify where to ship your materials. Trade shows often provide warehouse storage for your materials, but you may also need a third-party to ship and store your trade show materials. If you work with an experienced freight forwarder, they can help you choose the best time to send your goods. Many freight forwarders also provide off-hours and weekend services, too.
After the show, break down your booth and get it ready to ship back to your office or the next show. A freight forwarder can help with this too and work with you to arrange your shipment post-show as well.
7. Do Post Show Follow Up
During their time on the trade show floor, attendees talk to dozens of people and see hundreds of booths. Avoid being forgotten by attendees by following up with leads after the show through letters, emails and sending out any fulfillment packages as soon as possible. You can capture leads on the show floor through lead acquisition apps on an iPad or tablet, or the old-fashioned way, by having people fill out a form.
Quickly reaching out to leads is key. Trade shows are costly, and you want to maximize your return on investment by following up and keeping your brand name in people’s minds.
8. Write Down Post-Show Comments
Trade shows are not only a great place to meet potential buyers, but also to get thoughtful critiques of your products or services. It’s a great place to see where the industry is going and what consumers are looking for as well as get tips from your competitors. Perhaps they know a great booth design service that you want to check out, or they know ways to save some money on shipping. Whatever you learned post-show, make comments for yourself to plan for a better show next time.