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Supe Up Your Trade Show Booth & Conference Experience

Trade shows and exhibits are an amazing way to show off your product and reach potential buyers. Whether you’re hawking your B2B wares at an industry conference or looking consumers right in the eye at the boat show, you’ll want to maximize this opportunity to get their full attention, deliver a killer pitch and win them over.

Here are a few tips to maximize your exhibit booth experience.

Keep It Simple

When designing your booth, you’ll be tempted to fill every inch of the display with flashy graphics and explanations of your product’s features to make it stand out. But keep in mind everybody else is doing that, too – which means convention-goers are going to be facing a non-stop barrage of sensory over-stimulation. To stand out against the noise, try going for simple elegance with a bright, simple colour scheme and a ‘less is more’ graphics approach. This will make your booth an inviting, professional looking calm in the sea of glitz. Save all the details for the postcard or flyer you’ll give away, and your companion website. You might even do custom microsites for every show, so you can tailor your messaging to each audience.

Take a Top-Down Approach

When you’re planning the design of your booth, remember that the bottom of your display is essentially wasted space if it’s going to be hidden by a table and chairs. So make sure that the design gets your message across even if the bottom half can’t be seen.

A Table For Two?

The traditional exhibit booth has a long draped table at the front that displays your wares, but separates you and your staff from the crowd. But, is that the right approach for you? Think about the kind of interaction you want to have with people – if you’re looking to move a lot of people through at once, then this buffet-style approach is perfect. However, if your goal is to draw in key prospects for a deeper conversation, you might want to replace the long table with two or three smaller bistro tables where you can take them for a focused, more intimate conversation.

Are You At The Right Show?

Before you commit to exhibiting at a particular show, make sure that you’ve done your research to make sure it’s the right place for you. The event organizers should be able to give you a clear breakdown of their typical attendee’s demographics. That will help you determine the likelihood of finding qualified leads on the show floor. If the organizers won’t share that info, think twice.

Great Gifts Make Lasting Impressions

Schwag is trade-show staple. They’re an instant reward to say ‘thanks for listening to my pitch,’ and remind people about your product when they get back home. The fancier the gift, the pricier they are, so consider leveraging your gifting budget by having a lower-cost item you can buy in bulk for the curious masses. Then have a swankier item that you reserve for those who appear to be more qualified leads and likely potential customers. Hot items these days include cell phone chargers, mini flashlights and USB drives (still a hit, and you can pre-load them with your catalogue or other sales materials).

Bonus: You can make a strong impression by giving away gifts that relate to the place where the conference is happening. Heading to Miami? Why not give away custom-branded flip-flops or sunscreen? Just remember to make your logo, message and website standout so that you stay top of mind.

Ask To Host A Workshop or Seminar

Every conference is about more than just the trade show – it’s a chance for attendees to expand their skills and knowledge by attending seminars, workshops and panels. Take the opportunity to participate on a panel or host your own workshop. It’s a great way to demonstrate your company’s expertise while building awareness and trust with your audience. You’ll want to talk to the event organizers months earlier in the game, so that they have time to work your session into the schedule. And they’ll want to know why it’s going to be a valuable, informative and entertaining addition to the event, so make sure the value is there for all attendees.

Train Your Staff in the Art of “Show Craft”

Send the smartest, cleverest, most gregarious people on your team to work your trade show booth. Think you know who those people are? While some may be brilliant at the office, that doesn’t mean they know how to work a crowd. Make sure that every member of your team has been given training on everything from the booth set-up to how to work the crowd and maximize their messages. Make sure everyone knows their particular role at the conference, but is ready to jump in to help others when needed. The company that makes your booth may have some good resources to offer, and a quick Google search will guide you to many more.

Set Up Early

There’s nothing worse than running late and scrambling to set up your booth when the first crowds arrive. Those early arrivals are often keeners who are primed to hear your pitch, so you want to be ready to greet them the moment the door opens. Get everything set up, take a walk around the room to familiarize yourself with the layout and meet your neighbours, then take a break to recharge, regroup with your team and get pumped up for a great day on the floor. If you can do this the day before the event starts, that’s even better.

Study the Schedule & Be Ready for a Crowd

Trade show crowds come in ebbs and flows, and you want to make sure your booth is fully staffed up and ready to go when the rush hits. Take a look at when sessions and workshops take place, and make sure that your booth staff will stagger their coffee breaks over slow periods. That way they’ll be ready and revved up when the crowds spill back into the aisles.

A Little Interruption Goes A Long Way

You’ve got a great booth, a smart team, a bowl full of giveaways, smiles on your face… and you’re watching the crowds walk right on by. Remember that you can’t passively stand by and wait for people to come to you. To drum up those leads, you need to find a way to politely interrupt what people are doing, get their attention and get them to come over and say hi. Make sure everyone on your team has a few handy questions they can ask each passersby in a friendly way that will draw them in, and practice on each other before the trade show begins.

Don’t Rush Home

Running a booth makes for a long tiring day, so it’s always tempting to close up a little early. But resist that temptation, because you never know when that great potential buyer is going to wander by. You’ve put a lot of money and effort into being at this show, so maximize every moment you have on the floor. Wait until the crowds are truly gone before starting to pack up, as some of the best conversations happen with prospects when there are few distractions on the floor. And your booth might be an even bigger focus of attention if your neighbouring booths have gone home!

Follow-Up Fast

The leads you generate on the trade show floor are the main reason you’re there. So don’t wait too long before calling and emailing them to follow up. Many people wait weeks or even months before following up. The more time that passes between show day and follow-up, the faster the connections you made with potential customer fades away. So start working those calls the very next day.

Next Up: 6 must-have Android apps for attending a trade show or conference

Robert Hardy

Robert Hardy is a Vancouver-based television producer, writer and development consultant. Through his company Perfect Day Productions, Robert works with leading producers, writers and networks to help create innovative new television series, digital media and documentaries.

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