Trade shows are busy place; a cacophony of sound, lights and action somehow, in the middle of all this ‘white noise’ is YOUR stand and you have to stand out. You have to memorable and recognisable.
Exhibiting at a trade show is more than just unfurling your roller banners and bribing passers-by with a boiled sweet… there are hard lessons to be learnt but fortunately for you, we have compiled a list of 7 things your really should know before you roll on up to a trade show…

Thing no. 1 – turning up won’t cut it

Trade shows look like a doddle. After all, how hard can it be, turning up and standing by a table all wafting, wafting a few leaflets around?
Some people baulk at the cost of trade shows too but they assume that the few hundred quid they have thrown at an 8’ by 6’ space in the corner is going to reap rewards without them really trying.
Turn up with this attitude and you will be standing in something akin to a desert landscape, devoid of all obvious leads and sales.
In all honesty, you have paid this money to gain access to hundreds of delegates; it is no guarantee that you will sell anything or generate leads. So, create a promotion and roll up your sleeves, this is hard work…

Thing no. 2 – it is not all glamour

Trade shows to the inexperienced and the uninitiated look like glamourous gigs. Staying in plush hotels, bobbing about a conference style hall all day and chatting to folk. But actually, when you are consider you are there for a reason – making leads and money – then you start to see that actually, ‘swanning about’ is not the thing that will generate either of these actions.
It means hours on the road, some hotels are ‘nice’ but cheap, and sometimes you just get fed up of saying the same thing, to the ‘same kind of people’. Trade shows, for all the glamour and freebies, are hard work. They can be tiring but, executed well – and the right trade show for your product or service – can actually make them a rewarding experience.

Thing no. 3 - Wrong place + Wrong audience = inertia

Companies’ book trade shows sometimes year on year, without really thinking them through. Hence, these rather tire old trade show reins are handed on to new people who are expected to work miracles… which is difficult when the trade show is all wrong for the product or service you are ‘selling’. This inertia is costing you money – the cost of the stand, travel, accommodation, stuff and your time.
Every trade show you exhibit at should be subject to your objective assessment. Scrutinise the trade show audience and exhibitors – are they the people you need and want to sell to? If you come away with no leads, is this indicative of your performance (or your team) or the fact that the right people were simply not there?

Thing no. 4 – They are expensive but…

… trade shows can be worth it. They are investment of time and energy, as well as fair bit of your marketing budget. However, this hard work and energy can be well spent, simply because they really can generate the leads and sales that more than cover these financial costs, and also puts you in to profit too.
In fact, leads generated from a trade show can be the fodder from which your company feeds for a long time after the show has closed…

Thing no. 5 – You simply must budget AND plan

The problem with preparing for trade shows is that you can get a little carried away with the promotional ‘stuff’ that you invest in. If you are attending several trade shows in a given financial year then it simply pays to plan and budget for each one. Don’t be tempted to throw everything at one, and limp through the others.
There are also ‘hidden’ costs that you may not be aware of just yet – you may opt for lighting, electrical sockets etc. and before you know you have spent an extra £75 on overhanging LED lights.

Thing no. 6 – AFTER the trade show is just as important…

You know when gymnastic throw themselves through the air? Watch how they land… is it graceful and neat, finished off nicely or do they tumble to ground and walk off, ready for the next competition?
In many cases, when the stand is packed away, the team move on to the next thing or your mind turns to other things. Have a plan of action for after the trade show… who is going to follow up leads? How are you going to stay in touch with all those people that gave you their business card? When? How?... and the questions start to build. The 2 weeks after the trade show are prime time to remind people that you met and what you do etc. Don’t miss this golden time!

Thing no. 7 – Look after your stand…

Exhibition material, from roller banners to massive posters are all expensive, re-useable items BUT, the 10 minutes after the trade show doors have been shut is when the most damage will happen. Those plastic catches will ping off in all directions; tears and rips can appear and it is all down to the rush in ‘wanting to get away’.
The rush at the end of a concert where ‘dad syndrome’ appears – the ‘let’s leave a little earlier to beat the car park queues’ mentality. Don’t be pushed into ripping everything down and shoving it in the case or bags. Take your time because it will only mean a double job or, even worse, erecting your next trade show stand to find that the one plastic clip that holds it all together is G-O-N-E…