Preparing And Presenting For Your Tradeshow

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There are a number of ways to gain exposure for your business.  However, how often do you get the opportunity to introduce your business to hundreds of potential clients in only one day?  That is the power of participating in a tradeshow.  All the work of bringing potential clients to your door is done for you—all you need to do is sign up, show up and put your company’s best foot forward!  If you play your cards right, you could leave the tradeshow at the end of the day with a stack of business cards of people who are interested in doing business with you!  The issue, however, becomes how to make sure you are doing everything possible to gain that tradeshow traffic and gain the interest of those who stop by so you can follow up with a one-on-one meeting.  Here are a few tips from the experts on how to make your booth and attractive destination for all those who attend the tradeshow!

Sharing what your business does and how it can help the people who are at the tradeshow (or the people they know) is the major point of participating in a tradeshow.  Depending on the size of the show, you can potentially share your message with hundreds or even thousands of people.  Though it is possible to touch that many people with other forms of marketing, it usually is NOT possible to do it in person and in one day like you can do at a tradeshow.

“In our world of instant electronic communication it’s more important than ever to use event marketing to create face-to-face meeting time with clients and prospects.  People dig technology, but everyone loves personal attention.  Trade shows offer the personal platform and can be a powerful tool in your marketing strategy,” says Janet Denison, president of Vision Exhibits.

“Tradeshows are a fantastic place to showcase your business and/or product,” explains Amanda Francis-Thomas with Signs Now.  “You are in front of a group of people who are open to and interested in finding new and different businesses to utilize either personally or professionally.  There is a perception that businesses who participate in tradeshows are there to showcase new or ‘fresh’ ideas.  It’s a great way for businesses to spend a little bit of money and receive hundreds of impressions.”  Don’t forget that often the best contacts you make are with the other exhibitors at the show.  Make it a point to set up early so that you can have the opportunity to network with your ‘neighbors’.

“There are many reasons it’s important for businesses to attend tradeshows,” adds Lawrence Owens with Instant Business Shirts, “and in today’s economy, there is one key benefit we shouldn’t overlook.  When you factor in the current cost of travel, it just makes good sense to attend or exhibit at tradeshows.  If you take a little time to prepare in advance, you can reach out to many potential customers without traveling to see them individually.  Use the tradeshow environment as a place to schedule meetings with new and existing customers you know will be attending.  It’s a great way to get more bang for your marketing buck.”

“Tradeshows give businesses the opportunity to develop relationships beginning with face-to-face interaction,” states Janet Wurtz, Exhibit Services Manager at Pickering Creative Group.  “Speaking to prospective clients in person makes it possible to tailor your approach.  While some people may look at your company as ‘not for them’, by speaking with them face-to-face, you can pitch the company’s strengths that are most suited to their needs.  In addition, tradeshows also showcase your work, allow you to observe what your competitors are doing, collect leads and network with other exhibitors to develop relationships for possible referrals.”

Clearly, it’s a good idea for businesses to participate in tradeshows for a number of reasons.  However, if you’re not taking steps to make your booth a successful one, reserving a space at a tradeshow might end up being a waste of time and money.  So how can you make sure you’re utilizing your time and space at the tradeshow or tradeshows you choose to participate in?  Our experts have some advice.

Janet Denison with Vision Exhibits recommends, “Consider renting exhibits, monitors and furniture from your exhibit house if you are first-time exhibitor, or only exhibit one to three times a year.  Rentals are available at a fraction of the purchase price, plus it offers the opportunity to make changes or additions for the next show.”  She continues, “Regardless if it’s a purchase or a rental, you’ll want a display that is designed to fit your needs beyond the design of the graphics and the structure: the logistics of shipping, the amount of time you have available to set up your exhibit and other on-site details weigh in on the return of wise planning.”

“Do not use a table to act as a barricade in front of your back wall or graphics since these contain the most information about your company,” suggests Janet Wurtz with Pickering Creative Group.  “Use your back wall graphics as a selling tool and utilize the sides of your booth space to display your products and literature. Consider using flooring materials that allow you to display your logo and branding.”

“Having excellent signage and displays that show off your products is a must,” says Scott Stream of Image Inflators.  “It’s also a good idea to have something that is different in your booth from what other vendors have as it helps you stand out.  Aside from display materials, you should also try to always have someone in the booth and not have them sitting and waiting for clients to talk to them.  You should also have some type of offer where people have to sign up in order to gather names and email addresses to add to your contact list.”  But think beyond the fishbowl.  Janet Denison adds, “iPads offer a variety of uses at trade shows because of their portability including the use for lead retrieval.”

In addition to exhibit graphics, the show floor is a fantastic launch pad for promoting your business outside the convention doors, and offers the opportunity to market beyond the convention doors.  “Displaying QR codes or MS tags on product signs, t-shirts and prize signs are a rapidly-growing marketing avenue,” says Janet Denison.  “With 49% of people now owning smart phones, you can draw people to your booth, website, or other promotions through this engaging technology.  For example: print MS tags on the back of t-shirts (for your staff or qualified leads) and you’ve created ‘street marketing’ that will promote your business as your t-shirts are scanned in restaurants, hotels and other areas of the convention floor.  Plus, it offers measurable results.”

Amanda Francis-Thomas with Signs Now adds, “When planning your tradeshow booth, think in levels.  You want to utilize all areas of your space, not just the table or the back wall.  Start with floor graphics, something eye-catching and directional.  A table cloth or table banner is a great way to continue to lead the eye up from your floor graphics.  At table level, make it interesting.  An interesting display of giveaways is important and tiered levels of items are always great.  It gives the eye lots to look at and the more a potential clients looks at your booth, the better and more ingrained the impression.  If you have a large “pop-up” display at your table, great!  If not, then use a banner in your backdrop area.  You can also do a unique series of hanging signs on your backdrop.  Retractable banner stands are a great item to use at the ends of your table as they draw attention from the floor to 7’ high and are a really great way to “endcap your booth”.  Plus, you can’t beat the convenience of a retractable banner stand.  We recommend pushing the table to the back wall of the booth as opposed to sitting behind it.  This creates a more inviting, open booth and allows potential clients to ‘step into your office’.”

Branding and drawing the customer in doesn’t have to end with your displays.  Remember to think outside the box!  “Don’t forget to have your logo or brand name properly displayed on your shirt or business attire.  You won’t always be in the booth, and at a tradeshow everyone is looking at your shirt to see who you are.  Be creative— imagine having your shirt logo backlit with LEDs, or using button covers to highlight and bring more attention to your left chest logo. These are just few ways we are working towards creative new branding applications here at Instant Business Shirts,” says Lawrence Owens.

You can also put those manning your tradeshow booth in custom made apparel with your logo on them.  This is an especially good idea if there are other opportunities for your employees to wear these items (if they do multiple tradeshows or are out calling on potential customers and you want them to be easily recognized as being with your company).  “We offer the proper clothing for the people in the tradeshows with the company’s logo on them,” says Kevin Sherrill with Art/FX Screenprinting & Embrodery.  Branding your employees (especially those key employees that you know will stay with your company and be in front of a number of current and potential clients), is an important part of getting your name out in the community.

Promotional items are also an excellent way to draw potential customers in and make sure they walk away with something that has your company branding on it.  “Promotional items act as an ice breaker for your employees to help them talk to those attending the show,” says Frosty Critchfield of Frosty’s Specialty Advertising.  “These items make it easier for them to get people into the booth so they can explain your products and services.  It’s good if you can hand out something that is indicative of your services or products so that people will associate what you do with what you are handing out.  However, it can also be good to just have something unique or memorable.  We had one client who ordered fortune cookies for a tradeshow.  Inside the cookies were different prizes.  You can have a variety of messages in your cookies, ranging from small giveaways to a few large ones, and these are great talking points for your employees.”

There are also some things you can do during the tradeshow that can help maximize your exposure.  Janet Denison of Vision Exhibits suggests posting YouTube video updates while at the tradeshow as well as updating your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages, getting involved in any seminars, presentations or sponsorships the show may be offering and displaying QR codes on product signs, t-shirts and prize signs.  She also suggests using monitors, iPads and hands-on demos as well as promoting the experts in your booth staff who can help educate those who come to your booth on something related to your business.  Anything that will make you more memorable than your competition is a good thing!

Of course, your tradeshow will not be a successful one if you don’t properly plan.  “The most important factor of participating in a tradeshow is to begin planning early to ensure the organization is prepared and organized,” says Janet Wurtz of Pickering Creative Group.  “Make sure the display and marketing collateral is consistent with the current identity of the organization; simply put, if the logo is red and blue, incorporate those colors within the display, what the staff is wearing and all promotional and informational pieces distributed. Understanding tradeshow etiquette, using exhibits to showcase the organization’s strengths, and following up with business leads within a week are three additional recommendations for exhibitors.”

Looking for a great local tradeshow to exhibit in?  Consider the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Business to Business Tradeshow to be held October 18th at Pershing Center in Lincoln.  The Chamber is proud to host one of the region’s largest tradeshows with over 140 exhibitors and 2,500 attendees.  This tradeshow is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with thousands of potential customers in a single day.  Exhibitors introduce new projects, build distribution or generate business leads.  For more information, visit www.lcoc.com.