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Tips for first-time trade show exhibitors

Author's avatar By 04 Sep, 2015
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5 steps you should take when exhibiting at your first trade show

Preparing for a trade show can be a challenging experience. From the financial to the logistical, trade shows offer a massive range of benefits for your business but often demand an equally great amount of focus, work and commitment.

If you've never exhibited at a trade show before, the entire process of preparing a booth and readying your sales team can seem unbelievably difficult. In this guide, we’ll look at five simple tactics and principles that you can use to make the process of preparing for a trade show more manageable.


Tip 1. Prepare a detailed, itemised and flexible budget in advance

Budgeting for a trade show is a far more involved and demanding process than most business owners and marketers realise. Preparing a detailed, itemised budget is the difference between running a smooth trade show exhibit and dealing with a costly, stressful marketing nightmare.

The Trade Show Institute offers some practical tips for budgeting: assume that you’ll spend at least three times the cost of your exhibit space, be flexible in order to avoid running into budgeting hurdles during the event, and prepare an itemised budget so you can see exactly where your money is going.

Budgeting for individual items and show services isn’t the result of an obsession to detail – it’s actually a great way to make sure that you’ve prepared for every aspect of the event before it begins.

Tip 2. Know your audience when you prepare your marketing

Trade shows attract a diverse range of people, even if they’re designed to attract one particular industry. Within a show, you’ll likely find executives, vendors, purchasing managers, marketers, founders, freelancers and more.

Because such a wide range of people attend trade shows, it’s important to establish a target audience before you attend so that you can identify great prospects as they interact with your sales team. Develop an ideal customer profile so that your sales team can quickly recognise and interact with the highest quality leads.

Tip 3. Select space that matches your sales and branding goals

More than 400 companies exhibit at the average trade show. Because of this, where you choose to set up your trade show booth is often just as important for success as the event you choose to exhibit at. Position yourself well and you’ll gain a valuable advantage; position yourself poorly and you’ll blend in with the crowd.

Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when you’re selecting space for your trade show exhibit:

  • Do you want to attract visitors as soon as they arrive, or after they’ve had a chance to see what your competitors offer?
  • What is the foot traffic pattern? You can learn a lot about the best spaces to exhibit by attending an event at the same exhibit hall ahead of time.
  • Where are ‘blue chip’ companies that could attract a crowd going to set up their exhibits?
  • Is it advantageous for you to be close to your competition? If you offer a product or service that’s a better deal, setting up near your competitors could be a good idea.

Tip 4. Avoid serious logistical issues by being overprepared

Setting up your trade show exhibit is not as simple as turning up and plugging in all of your equipment. Ask yourself the serious logistical questions ahead of time and you’ll prevent common setbacks from occurring on the day of the trade show.

How far is your space from the nearest power outlet? What is the lighting like near your exhibit space? How long will you need to set up your exhibit? These questions might seem simple, but their answers can make or break your exhibit.

Be realistic about the quality of the leads you’re generating

When you have hundreds of leads coming in during the event, it’s very tempting to think of your exhibit as a success before it’s really proven itself. Many of the leads you generate at a trade show may have also talked to five, ten, or even more other companies, so it’s important to be realistic about their value.

Use the entire event as an opportunity to generate fresh sales leads, and don’t feel that you can scale back your sales efforts because you have several hundred phone numbers or business cards already. When you’ve exhibited at several trade shows you’ll be able to assess quality on the fly – for now, just focus on lead generation.

Tip 5. Review - was your first trade show successful?

Over the next weeks and months, as your sales team follows up with the leads you generated at your first trade show, you’ll be able to judge for yourself whether the event was a sales success or failure. As you attend more trade shows, the tactics in this guide will change from being deliberate strategy into natural behaviour.

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Event Marketing

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