Exhibiting at Trade Shows: 3 Things You Need To Do

Exhibiting at Trade Shows: 3 Things You Need To Do

You may have noticed that this month’s issue focuses on conferences and trade shows. Exhibiting at trade shows is great way to get your company’s name out there and meet potential clients. And it seems like this is the time of year when the fall season really kicks in and from September to November, trade shows fill our weeks.

There is no shortage of information out there about how to be successful at trade shows, but over the years I have narrowed it down to three essentials that your business needs to have in place as an exhibitor or vendor.

#1: Carefully choose your exhibitors.

These people are the face of the company. I was recently at a large trade show and was very much reminded about the importance of the staff you send.

This particular booth had a giveaway and to sign up the exhibitor needed to scan your badge. This company had three employees in their booth and one was working with another attendee to get registered. Here’s how the interaction went:

Standing in booth in front of a gentleman on a computer. He does not look up from his laptop.

“I’d like to register for the drone,” my co-worker says.

He looks over at his coworker and says it will be a few minutes.

And then…

I kid you not. No questions about where we were from, what our company does. No insight into who his company was, or what they did. Nothing but awkwardness and discomfort.

Please make sure the people working in the booth will engage with attendees. Without this crucial element, you might as well just throw money out the window. Make sure your staff members are excited about what you’re doing, invested in what you’re doing, and as an intro to the next essential, know what’s expected of them as an exhibitor.


#2: Know why you’re there.

Having a clear goal for each trade show is critical to knowing which shows you should invest in continually. Your preliminary research will tell you the type of people you can expect to meet and the agenda will tell you how much time you’ll get with attendees as well as any additional networking opportunities, but having a quantitative goal will not only lead to results but will also give your exhibitors an idea of how they should spend their time and what kind of results they need to bring back home.

Goals can be qualitative or quantitative but if you looking to justify the cost of trade shows, definitely stick with quantitative such as:

  • Sales made
    • If you’re able to sell your product on the spot, this is a great way to measure success right away.
  • Number of leads acquired
    • For those products that have a longer sales cycle or for services, tracking the number of leads can result in short-term results of the show.
  • Number of newsletter or magazine subscribers added
    • If you’re just getting started, announcing a new service, or at a small show, something as simple as this may be effective as your goal.
  • Media contacts made
    • Especially at national trade shows, make a point to take time to visit the booths of the publishers and media. This starts to build a relationship and gives you the opportunity to invite them to your booth to showcase your product or service.

It’s also important to note that goals may change from show to show. At a small regional show, your goal may simply be exposure. These shows typically don’t cost as much and require little travel, whereas a national show could easily bump your budget in excess of $10,000 and require a sales goal to justify the costs.


#3: ALWAYS follow up.

This one is simple. Make sure the exhibitors follow up with any leads and contacts made at the show, preferably within a couple weeks so the interaction at the show is still fresh in their minds. It’s also a good idea to jot down any notes on their business card that could be specific to their interests in your company or even just a random note about what you talked about to break the ice.

Trade shows can be a great way to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time, but it takes some work to make sure you’re picking the right shows and getting your money’s worth. Good luck with your upcoming fall conferences and trade shows!

Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services

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