‘Tis the season for Tradeshows: Ok, maybe not, but I used to work in an industry where the first tradeshow of the year was during the first week of January. That meant getting on a plane January 2 and setting up a booth in Las Vegas. It was THE event of the year, so it couldn’t be missed (unlike a family birthday-still feeling guilty). Most industry’s have a similar event; where you launch new products, debut new glossy brochures and educate your prospects and customers. If your office gets a little quiet during the holiday season, take advantage of the time, work on your marketing plan and remember the power of tradeshows.
Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to make your tradeshow a success.
Do: Get plenty of rest. Tradeshows done right entail a lot of communication with prospects; verbal and non-verbal. Throw in parties and other social events and you can get exhausted pretty quickly. As a person who got a winter cold the day before a 5 day tradeshow, you don’t want to be fighting your body during this experience. I am a huge advocate of Zicam/Airborne to minimize colds, but try not to get them in the first place. The same goes for partaking of too much “cheer”. It’s really hard to be engaged with prospects on a few hours of sleep.
Do: Wear comfortable shoes. Men and women can suffer from this issue, especially if you purchase new shoes for the show. You don’t concentrate as well, if part of your body hurts. I confess, I love high heels, especially stylish ones that lack arch support. In fact, there were times I brought high heels to wear on the tradeshow floor and had a pair of flats for booth setup and take down. And one time as I was leaving the tradeshow, one of my comfy shoes fell out of my tote bag, forcing me to wear the heels the entire day. THAT WAS NOT FUN. I can still remember the pain after 4 years.
Do: Be prepared. Have a backup stash of literature, samples and business cards in your carry-on, if possible. Imagine how you would function if all you had was yourself-no booth, no samples or material. What could you do/display to survey or command a proper presence? Also prepare for “wardobe malfunctions” as if you might lose an outfit. I had luggage that was slashed by an automatic luggage machine at the airport and it made an unrepairable gash in a suit jacket.
This simple equation can make your show successful:
Additional Traffic + New Leads = More Quotes & Sales.
Don’t: Sit Down. I hate walking a tradeshow floor and seeing people sitting in chairs, looking as thought they would rather be anywhere else. I am also not a fan of hiring people (or models) to babysit a booth to “dress it up”. If you are short-staffed or a one-man operation, sometimes it can’t be helped, but try and have at least 2 people in the booth at a time. It fills up the space and if you get one or two prospects in the booth, you start creating show floor buzz. A booth is much more attractive if you are at attention and ready to be responsive to any question. It also demonstrates your commitment to your product and organization.
Don’t: Forget to Prepare. Have your booth scanner rented, know the software you are going to use, have your phone charged, get your Twitter account setup and know how to do things from the show floor. Have your Out Of Office turned on your work email. Expect that you can’t respond to work items at the show. Know how to update your Facebook status and prepare for a weak signal in the convention center. There is nothing worse than learning technology on the fly. Plus at that point, you aren’t paying attention to the show and prospects may skip your booth; which is one of the reasons you are there in the first place.
Don’t: Forget Your Customers. Focus in all of the tradeshow hoopla. It is fun to see and catch up with other industry peers, association personnel, but the reason you are there is to help increase sales. That means being alert and ready to engage with your customers at all times. Go beyond knowing your products and do your customers a service by telling them how you can solve their problems. That extra knowledge or “free training” is the gold nuggets that your customers want from you and can keep them loyal to your organization.
There are many more things I can write about, but remember to check out the promotional and advertising materials that your association has available to you. You may be able to host a small seminar or give a speech that can elevate your position within the industry so you are seen as a thought leader. Work with your association account manager to “get interviewed” if the association prints out an industry show daily newspaper. And don’t forget to submit for awards–best new product is a great one to win and drives more traffic to your booth.
Don’t forget that tradeshows are a valuable component to your marketing plan. Evaluate booth personnel, besides looking professional, are they the ones that work the customers? Consider having your customer service personnel attend the show; they are the ones that work with your customers everyday and know the answers to your key clients’ projects. Get your booth to the show early, (you don’t want to be watching the Weather Channel and see your freight truck, booth and materials stranded in a Colorado snowstorm; that was stressful). Representing your organization and exposing your company to additional sales and partnerships rounds out your marketing efforts. This is the fun person-to-person networking that complements all of your print and online marketing efforts-Smile!