You’ve heard all the amazing benefits that can come with exhibiting at a trade show, from networking opportunities to lots of new business! The question is, how do you maximize the return on your investment (a combination of travel costs, lodging, fees, per diem expenses, and marketing)?

Whether you’re new to trade shows or you’re a bonafide trade show genius, the following five tips should make a big difference in your trade show success!

1) Pre-Show Promotion

The first step to success at a trade show is promoting the fact that you’re going to be there to the people who matter. That means your clients, partners, vendors, extended professional networks, friends, and anyone else who you think might spread the word on your behalf.

Getting a buzz going about the event and your involvement in it will improve your results at the event itself.

2) Read the Exhibitor’s Manual

Just like it helps to read a recipe before doing a baking project, you should read the exhibitor’s manual before your involvement in a trade show. What can you expect to learn from this manual? Here are a few things:

  • Move-in times

  • Set-up times

  • Height restrictions

  • Guidelines for setup

Knowing these rules will help you save time, money, and embarrassment. You can also avoid the worst fate of all, which is missing the window in which you’re allowed to set up and having the show open without you.

3) Pack an Emergency Toolbox

This is a hugely important tip that many people don’t even think about. When you’re in the thick of the trade show, you need to be able to react quickly. What if you suddenly see that a display is slipping, or a cord is frayed and needs to be replaced? Having emergency supplies on hand will save the day.

Here are some items you should pack:

  • Tape (masking, duct, etc.)

  • Glue

  • Scissors and utility knives

  • Spare extension cords

  • Sharpie markers

  • Flashlights

  • Cable ties

  • Screwdrivers (straight/Phillips/Robertson)

  • Paper towels and spray cleaner

  • Copies of your graphics and handouts on a flash drive

While you might be able to buy these items at the show itself, you’ll save a ton of money by bringing them, and you’ll be ready to fix any problems that arise.

4) Start Early

If you’re interested in booking a space at a trade show, do it as soon as you can. On average, you can save about 30 percent by doing it early! In addition to booking your space, also book electrical service, Internet/Wi-Fi access, carpet rental, and any other services you know you’ll need.

You can check the trade show website or the exhibitor’s manual for deadlines. Don’t miss them! It’ll cost you a lot more than necessary.

5) Send Your Best People

As important as your display is, you have to wow people who stop by your booth too! That’s why you should send representatives who know your business and know how to attract customers, engage them, and turn them into qualified leads.

Salespeople need to adapt to selling in person in a trade show environment, which could take some practice, but it’s worth the training. As for non-salespeople, with preparation they can do very well too.

Take these tips to heart, and I’m sure you’ll see great trade show success soon!

~Tony Johnson

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