Exhibiting at trade shows and conventions offers an important opportunity to build your brand and connect on a personal basis with new prospects as well as current customers. It also requires a significant investment of time and money and careful planning in order to achieve your marketing goals. If your company is exhibiting for the first time, the following strategies will help you stage a successful exhibition while laying a solid foundation for future shows.
Choose the right show for your business.
Not every trade show or convention offers a good fit for your business, so before plunking down thousands of dollars for the entry fee, study the show you’re considering to make sure it’s right for you. This includes:
- Attending the show before committing to booth space
- Observing other exhibitors and attendees
- Getting a feel for the flow of the show
- Reviewing attendee profiles in the show’s exhibitor kit to make sure they fit your target market
Prepare a detailed, flexible budget.
Budgeting for a trade show can be a lot more complex than many first-time exhibitors expect. To assure a smooth and successful trade show, be sure to include all individual items and show services in your itemized budget. Items to consider in your budget include:
- Booth space
- Exhibit rental or purchase
- Graphics design and production
- Shipping to and from show
- Show services (electrical, drayage, etc.)
- Travel and hotel accommodations for your staff
For help in assembling an accurate working budget, download our Trade Show Budget Worksheet .
Market your exhibition before the show.
As a first-time exhibitor, you probably won’t get a prime space at your first show. As a result, you may not get the foot traffic you need for a successful exhibit. To increase traffic, let your customers and prospects know ahead of time that you will be exhibiting at the show and where they can find you. Use email, social media, advertising, and other marketing tools to reach as many people as possible.
Ask the right logistical questions.
Nothing will put the brakes on a successful trade show exhibit faster than poor lighting, inadequate power, or other logistical problems. To keep things running smoothly during the show, go over all logistics before the event, asking questions like:
- How much electrical power do you need?
- How far away are the outlets?
- How long will it take to set up and dismantle your display booth?
For assistance with planning and logistics before, during, and after the show, you can download our free eBook, The Essential Guide to Trade Show Planning .
Aim for a big splash.
To justify the trade show expenditures, you need to make a real impact at your first show. To attract foot traffic and connect with your booth visitors, design your display with eye-catching colors and graphics that present your brand style with personality and flair. Engage the audience with crisp marketing messages, and use drawings, promotions, and giveaways to get them excited about your product or service. The first time out, you may want to consider using a trade show professional to man your booth.
Finally, keep in mind that it’s okay to start small by using a portable exhibit . These versatile booths are easy to ship and assemble, require a smaller investment, and are easily adjustable to different types of shows and space configurations. And, most important, they enable you to maximize your marketing budget and still make a strong impact at the show.