What is a trade show but a giant networking opportunity? No matter if you’re an exhibitor, an attendee, an investor, or something in between – a trade show’s primary purpose is to allow like-minded people to meet and display their wares and abilities. Of course, there are certain marketing principles that are necessary for a positive business trade show experience.
I’ve been attending trade shows off and on for a number of years; and I can tell you that an attention-grabbing presentation is essential. How this presentation manifests is largely up to you. You can choose to invest in banner display stands, advanced audio equipment, even an exceptionally well-designed booth with multiple rooms. Whatever you do, make sure that you look like you are at the top of your game. Don’t shirk on investing in high quality products.
Even though you’re going to be doing a tremendous amount of talking and hand shaking, the vast majority of what people will remember has to do with your overall presentation. If you had a stain on your tie or a drooping canopy on your stand, people are more likely to classify you as an amateur than a professional. Similarly, if you hand out shoddy materials with typos, poorly printed graphics, or other mediocre craftsmanship, you’ll be remembered unkindly. Presentation is one of the easiest areas to prepare, and one of the most important. Always have a set of business cards handy, and make sure they represent you accurately! Business cards with crossed out numbers or other hand written information look tacky. People expect you to be professional; any materials that you hand them should be produced at the highest possible level.
Before you attend a trade show, you need to do your research. As an exhibitor, people expect you to be fluent in your own product line. If you appear hesitant, uncertain, or wilfully unprepared, no one will bother to purchase your product. You are acting as the representative of the company. A bad attitude or an unprofessional look will act against not just you, but the company as a whole. If you are feeling overwhelmed about the amount of information you have to know, the best thing to do is develop a natural-sounding yet brief talk that summarizes the main points of your product. In the past, I’ve prepared note cards with talking points written on them and rehearsed them until I had developed and memorized a fluid, natural-sounding speech. If anyone asked me something I didn’t know, I would simply say, “Let me research that and get back to you.” This allowed me not only to keep from panicking, but also helped me to make connections with people and exchange contact information.
People who have not been to a trade show before are always astonished by the energy and intensity of the crowd. The sheer numbers of people who attend and correspondingly want a minute of your time can be overwhelming. Although this may sound impossible, it’s important to prepare yourself to be overwhelmed. Even veterans of the trade show circuit must mentally prepare themselves for the onslaught. Whether you’re a pro or a first-timer, make sure you build in some breaks to your day to give yourself some mental relief. Try to choose off-peak times. Taking a lunch break at the conventional lunch hour is not advised because you’ll miss out on a lot of potential business from other exhibitors who may be wandering the event on their breaks. Take an early or late lunch, but be sure to give yourself at least one 30-minute window in the middle of the day. Otherwise, you will be completely exhausted and hoarse.
Having some clear marketing materials, like banner display stands that explain who you are and what your company does, can reduce some of the overwhelming volume and help you attract people you genuinely want to talk to. Although most trade show attendees try to visit stands that are related to their business, in the crush of the event it can be difficult to find stands if they are not clearly marked.
In some cases, the most effective marketing principle is simply to make yourself easily visible. Whether you choose to add lights to your stand, a booming musical interlude, or an exceptionally vivid graphic display, people will be drawn to you. Whatever you do, try to remember to enjoy yourself. People enjoy talking to other seemingly upbeat people, and frequently want to buy what they are selling.
About the Author – An online business writer who works on behalf of Marler Haley, Thomas O’Rourke has extensive experience in writing about the promotional aspects of exhibitions – including banner display stands, business cards and more. Please comment or get in touch if you’d like to find out more.