7 secrets to a successful trade show exhibit

Trade shows are a popular option for a business to meet potential customers, but unless you do them well they can become a costly flop.

Once you’ve decided to exhibit at a trade show it’s vital to make the most of your investment.

By the time you add up the expenses such as the cost of space, signage, furniture and even brochures it makes getting your investment right all the more important.

No matter how much you spend though, it’s personal effort in planning and execution that leads to a great trade show.

Here are seven ways you can make the most out of exhibiting at a trade show.

1. Know your aims

How can you have a successful show if you can’t define what success looks like?

Even at the same event, different exhibitors may have very different goals — and this will affect how they design and run their stand.

For example, one exhibitor may have a specific goal for number of people to talk to and number of names to obtain for follow up.

After years of exhibiting they know precisely how many franchise buyers will emerge from the events.

Meanwhile, less focused exhibitors often complain they are not successful.

Another company that exhibits at the same event may focus on signing up potential franchisees for their free industry newsletters.

So, think carefully about your aims. Do you expect to make sales? Perhaps it’s about making contacts to grow your database. What does a good lead look like to you?

It’s always a good idea to have a number in mind; for instance, how many people do you expect to speak with?

2. Set a budget

Remember that in addition to the cost of space you’ll need furniture, signage, handouts and promotional items, and possibly travel and accommodation.

Make sure you have enough budget allocated to create the right impression.

3. Start your preparations early

You will need time to design and order your signs and graphics, brochures, and giveaways — and to plan how you will approach the event.

Don’t leave things to the last minute.

When it comes to designing your trade show stand, think about how you will attract attention.

I recommend using professionally designed signs and graphics. They are well worth the investment and can be used for multiple events.

It’s also a very good idea to pre-market to your customers and prospects. Let them know you’re attending the show and invite them to come and see you there.

4. Learn from others

You can learn a lot from others and from your own past experiences.

Take time to attend trade shows yourself. Which stands catch your attention? Do you notice some exhibitors busily engaged with visitors and others who seem uninterested?

What lessons do you take away? What can you learn from your own past experiences as an exhibitor?

5. Choose your staff well

Trade shows are all about people and communication so choose staff you are confident will engage well with visitors.

It’s best if at least one person has experience attending trade shows so they can pass on their knowledge to less experienced team members.

Also, remember to brief your team on how you want them to approach and engage visitors.

6. Work the show

When show time comes, it’s time for focused effort.

No matter how tempting it is to chat to colleagues, your first priority should be to engage visitors and do business with them.

As the show progresses adapt if needed, and make every effort to keep your team energised.

7. Follow up

Make sure you don’t throw away your investment by failing to have a defined follow up plan, or leaving it too late to pursue your leads.

Decide on your follow up plan before you attend the show, and have someone responsible for rolling it out right away.

These seven steps won’t guarantee you success, but they will put you in the best possible position to make sure your time, effort and investment is maximised while at a trade show.