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How to Network at Trade Shows

You’ve finally decided to attend your first trade show. While you’re there, you not only want to showcase your products and services, but you must find a way to connect with attendees and fellow business owners . According to research from Exhibit Surveys Inc.’s 2012 Trade Show Trends report, 49 percent of trade show attendees come to shows with the intent of purchasing something, and 84 percent of attendees have the influence to recommend products and make final purchasing decisions. This is a clear indication that networking is extremely important.

If you’ve decided that trade show attendance should be a key aspect of marketing and promotions for your company, here are some tips for networking that you’ll want to remember.

Try to Go Solo

Even if you don’t go to the actual trade show by yourself, try to do your networking alone. This shows that you’re approachable and will stop others from feeling awkward about approaching you if you’re already engaged in conversation. Attending trade shows alone will also make it easier for you to approach others and will increase the chances that you can focus on what potential business partners and customers are saying and remember who you want to contact after the trade show.

Research the Trade Show

As you’re getting your trade show exhibit ready, make sure that you also do your homework when it comes to the event. When you know the types of companies and individuals that will be at the event, you can get a game plan together and decide which organizations you want to connect with and how you want to communicate with people who can help to move your business forward.

Capture Leads

You should have a system for how you’re going to get leads and have a system for keeping up with your leads. This will help you connect with the right people and will give you a method for following up with these individuals after the trade show. After all, the purpose of networking is to create lucrative relationships with individuals who can help your business grow.

Schedule Your Networking Time

Make sure you’re not spending time at the trade show booth and schedule time to network with other business owners. If the trade show organizers are holding a meet and greet before or after the actual show, make sure you confirm your attendance. This will also give you the chance to write a list of the people you’d like to meet with and will encourage you to accomplish the goal of shaking hands with the right people.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Finally, when you’re networking at trade shows, make sure that your conversation is concise and relevant. Whether you’re networking at your trade show booth or are attending an event that is designed for you to connect with others, keep your discussions to the point and be sure to ask questions instead of making the conversation all about you. This will make you more memorable and shows you’re ready to collaborate on future projects or marketing campaigns.

Tips for Kid-Centric Trade Shows

Depending on the nature of your business, you may have to appeal to younger customers to increase revenue. If you have a product or service that was created for children or is designed for parents to use for the benefit of children, your trade show booth will need to attract children and get them motivated to convince their parents to become customers. Here are some tips to consider.

Be Interactive

When you want to ensure your trade show exhibit design will get the attention of kids, add an interactive element. Include a feature that children can use, such as a tablet that is bolted to a table and displays the ways your app makes it easier to use your product. You can also use the tablet to have kids select the things they like best about your product or enter their names for a drawing to win prizes. The hands-on approach is appealing to most children, and if kids are motivated to come to your booth and stay for a while, this may increase the likelihood their parents will make a purchase.

Be Colorful

A trade show booth that features neutral and stoic colors may be a sign of professionalism in adults, but kids will walk right past your exhibit if you don’t make it colorful. There are also colors you can choose that will evoke certain emotions in customers. For instance, if you’re selling eco-friendly products for the home that are kid-friendly, green is ideal. However, you should select a bright, or especially vivid variation of, green so children will want to give your exhibit a second look. If your company sells items that are edible, the colors orange and yellow should be used in your booth to excite the senses and make attendees feel hungry. There are ways to be both colorful and professional, such as using all primary colors with a refined font or combining a neon color with a more toned-down shade. Remember, color is important when you want kids to notice.

Use Technology

These days, kids are much more skilled when it comes to using technological devices than their parents. When you use software, laptops or tablets in your trade show exhibit presentation, there’s a good chance that young customers will be drawn to your booth and want to stay a while. Stay updated on the latest trends when it comes to making your app(s) interactive or introducing games for children that are both educational and entertaining.

Incorporate Music

Music is one of the ways to excite and motivate children (and adults), so including music from popular artists that kids enjoy listening to can make your exhibit one of the more attractive booths at the trade show. A music system that lights up to the rhythm of the song can add more sensory appeal to your trade show booth as well.

Treat Kids as Customers  

Finally, don’t forget to treat kids as though they are customers. They have a lot of influence when it comes to getting their parents to patronize your business. So, remember to speak their language, engage with them, and treat their opinions as valuable. This can go a long way when you want to make a great impression and establish a solid customer base after the trade show.

When Not to Attend Out-of-Town Trade Shows

If you’ve attended a few trade shows in your city, it may be time to expand your potential client base and go to a few trade shows out of town. There are several advantages to doing this, but there may be times when you should sit out on trade shows that aren’t local. Here are some factors to consider when you want to know which trade shows are worth your while.

Consider Overall Costs

Of course, there are additional costs associated with attending a trade show that isn’t in your city. When you’re sitting down with your team and coming up with trade show ideas, don’t forget to keep your budget in mind. For instance, you may not be able to bring a large, elaborate sign for the trade show exhibit if you’re going out of town and can’t afford the shipping costs. Also, the travel arrangements and lodging will likely take a toll on your business budget as well. Hotel rooms and plane tickets can get expensive, and if you find the cost of attending is significantly more than the possible profit you’d be making if you go to the show, it’s best to sit it out.

Think About Your Office

Consider the possibility you may have to close your office while you’re at the trade show. This could keep regular customers from patronizing your business while you’re marketing to new clients. If you are taking all or most of your team to the trade show, make sure you announce this on your website and social media pages . This will decrease the chances that customers will visit your offices and be disappointed when there is no one there to assist them. Of course, if you find you are getting a lot of negative feedback about your decision to close the offices to attend the trade show, it may be best to adjust your schedule so team members can be at the office, or you can opt out of the trade show this year if you get this information far enough in advance.

Put Together a Trade Show Team

Even if you have an attention-getting trade show exhibit and have come up with creative ideas to market to customers, if you don’t have the right team to attend out-of-town shows, it is best not to attend. Even though technology plays a huge role in the way we do business these days, employees with expert social skills and professionalism will make a more permanent impression on attendees than the latest devices and software.

Choose team members who know your products and services like the backs of their hands. Select employees to sit at the trade show booth who look for ways to engage with attendees instead of getting nervous when potential customers approach your exhibit. Remember you’ll probably have to do considerably more work to prepare for the trade show since it’s out of town, so the team you choose should be top-notch to guarantee your attendance is worth it.

Which Trade Show Team Members Should You Bring to the Show?

Now that you’ve spoken with your team and decided you need to attend more trade shows, it’s time to decide who you’ll bring along with you to the shows. Remember, the employees who are at your trade show booth give your company a certain impression, so you want to guarantee the individuals you choose will cause trade show attendees to feel great about what you have to offer. Here are a few qualities you should be looking for.

Friendliness

It’s important the team members you select are naturally friendly. When you’re coming up with trade show ideas, it’s essential the people who are at the booth are engaging and make attendees feel comfortable. Being friendly makes potential customers feel welcome and piques their interest in the products and services you’re offering. A friendly face, a smile or a handshake is a great way to break the ice with attendees and get them to spend more time at your booth.

Knowledge

It’s important to select employees who are very knowledgeable about your company. These team members should be able to tell attendees the history of your company and the milestones you’ve met on your road to success. Choose team members who aren’t afraid to talk to strangers, so attendees will get a thorough description of your company at trade shows. The people who are representing your organization should be comfortable explaining more than your tradeshow exhibit design and will put your company in the best possible light without sounding too sales-y.

Professionalism

Your employees should always be professional when they are dealing with attendees. While it’s important to be engaging and social, you also want to give people the impression you are a leader in your field. Your trade show booth should reflect the fact that you’re perfectly comfortable with telling potential customers the benefit of doing business with you.

Fearlessness

The people at your trade show booth should be fearless. This means the team members who are representing your business can’t be afraid to be outgoing and even a little entertaining when interacting with attendees. Make sure everyone who is at your exhibit is confident in the information he or she is giving to attendees since there will likely be a few people who are skeptical when they come to your booth. These individuals need to be convinced your products or services are worthwhile before leaving your booth, and the right team members can make this happen for you.

Empathy

Finally, it’s very important that the team members at your trade show exhibit are empathetic. You need to work with people who have shown they are sensitive to the needs of customers and want to ensure that company meets the needs of consumers. A mixture of professionalism and compassion is necessary to connect with potential customers and keep them coming back. Remember this when you’re creating innovative trade show ideas that you want your team to carry out. When your marketing message includes empathy, you’re also increasing the chances that attendees will tell others about your business and bring in more clients for you.

Tips for Downsizing Your Trade Show Booth

After you have attended a few trade shows, you may have noticed that your exhibit doesn’t have to be very large. You may have also observed that you don’t have to prepare as many marketing materials and that it is a hassle to disassemble and store all the parts of your trade show booth. Of course, a small exhibit also means that you won’t have to spend as much money putting on an attractive display or storing the materials. If you’ve decided to downsize, here are some things to keep in mind.

Narrow Your Supplies Down

Be sure to narrow down all the supplies you truly need when you are downsizing your trade show portable booths. Don’t eliminate the parts of the booth that are most noticeable or items that attract a lot of attendees to your exhibit. Get rid of items that are difficult to carry, or items that you’ve noticed don’t get as much attention as you would’ve hoped. Make sure that your trade show booth is both practical and visually appealing so that you can keep the right items while effectively downsizing.

Think About Your Goals

Give careful thought to the goals you want to accomplish with your trade show exhibit. Do you attend trade shows to make sure that more potential customers know about your products and services? Do you want to connect with established clients to increase brand recognition and motivate them to market for you through word of mouth? Are you looking to make sales when you attend trade shows? Answering these questions can help you figure out if you should have an exhibit that will reach your core audience primarily because of content, or if the size of your booth will affect the way people see your business. This way, if you need to downsize, you can do so in a way that helps you maintain the reputation of your company.

Get Storage Costs

If you must store your trade show booth materials in a location other than your office, you already know that storage can be expensive over time. Get an estimate of how much storage will cost if you downsize your exhibit and factor this into your overall trade show budget. This may help you to organize your funds so that you will have more money to attend out-of-town marketing events or add more necessary employees to your trade show team.

Before and After

Finally, get a clear picture of how your trade show exhibit will look after you downsize. You can do this by using computer software or by working with your team to take away certain items and photographing the booth to see how it will look after you have downsized. Once you have a clear idea of how you want the exhibit will come across to attendees, and you’re sure that your marketing message is clear, you can design your booth in a way that will continue bringing more positive buzz to your business, even in between trade shows.