According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a trade show is defined as “a large exposition to promote awareness and sales of especially new products within an industry.” However, for marketers, busy executives and business owners, trade shows are often defined as stressful, exhausting events that cause you to lose valuable time and money (not to mention, sleep!). Today, I’d like to offer you a fresh perspective on trade shows with my Six Stress-free Steps Towards Trade Show Success blog. In this article, I’ll share a few simple ways you can prepare your team, booth and materials to help ensure a more relaxing and rewarding trade show experience. Let’s get started …
1. PREPARE YOURSELF AND YOUR TEAM
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many times you arrive at an event and think, “Huh, that is a great idea … why didn’t I think of that?” This could include forgetting to pack extra business cards—the one item you’ll likely run out of by the second day of the conference. To avoid embarrassing bloopers and senior moments, host a kickoff meeting at least 4-8 weeks in advance with your team to discuss the budget, goals, plan of attack, schedule of events, staffing requirements and develop a checklist of what you’ll bring.
Knowing that your competitors will likely be there, you’ve got to think BIG! Investing in professional booth displays, fun giveaways and top quality printed materials will help you stand out and look your best. Before I move on to the next topic, please remember that our team at Stokes has been creating beautiful folders, postcards, brochures and all of the various printed pieces you’ll need to bring with you so don’t attempt a DIY—let us help take away your stress! Here are some samples of our graphic design and marketing pieces.
2. YOUR BOOTH VS. EVERYONE ELSE’S
As I mentioned, your competitors are going to be perhaps only a few booths away from where you are so it’s important to outshine those other guys. Think about your booth from a visitor’s perspective … does it make you want to stop and look or just keep walking? Are there cool giveaway promo items or just the usual boring tchotchkes like pens and keychains nobody uses? Is there an interactive item or TV with interesting video content playing or nothing interesting to see? Is there a great raffle item being offered to a lucky winner? Are the marketing materials presented in an attractive way or placed in messy piles on the table? It’s stressful and overwhelming just considering all of this, isn’t it? After giving these questions some thought, your event team can begin a mock-up of how the booth will look and order the materials needed to bring it to life.
Whatever you decide, make sure that it is something you are proud to stand next to and that your booth accurately portrays the integrity and quality of your business. The experts at Stokes can help design, select and order the perfect banners or giveaway items (including USB thumb drives with your corporate presentation on them!), or help create a stunning promotional video that tells the story of your business. Contact us today for a free quote to help your company shine bright at the next trade show you attend. Your competitors will definitely drop their jaws! View some of our award-winning video work on our Vimeo channel.
3. EXHIBITOR DOS AND DON’TS
We’ve all walked through an exhibit hall and seen our fair share of eager sales reps proudly standing beside their booth, making great eye contact and smiling to greet you. On the other hand, we’ve also seen the lowly employee who looks like they got sucked into standing at the booth and is bored out of their mind, face down into their cell phone looking disinterested. Be sure that your booth representatives understand how to present themselves during exhibit hours. Your team should look their best in whatever attire you decide, whether suits with your logo pin on the lapel or logo polo shirts. Don’t lose out on an opportunity to connect with potential clients because someone at your booth looked half asleep when they walked by.
Before we move onto the next pointer I have a few insider tips for you. Nothing is worse than being famished or dehydrated while manning the booth. Bring some granola bars or other easy-to-eat snacks with you, along with a water bottle. I’ve seen the cups run out at the water stations on the exhibit floor so having a refillable bottle is a great way to avoid leaving your booth unattended while you run to find the nearest vending machine. Worst case scenario you can snag a plastic cup or water bottle promo item from someone at the show—they’re everywhere! Also, since we’re still in cold and flu season, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on your table to kill those germs after pressing the flesh throughout the day. You’ll be surprised at how many visitors will come up just to grab a squirt and thank you for bringing it!
4. PLAY TAG TEAM WITH YOUR TEAM
To avoid seeing the aforementioned booth representative who is half asleep, it is important for your team to take turns relieving one another to attend workshops, walk around the exhibit floor to meet people and even take a break to catch up on emails or grab a bite to eat. Since most of us are “connected” and able to work from our cell phones, it is a good idea to limit working from your phone while sitting at the booth and wait until your team member gives you a break. I understand how challenging this is because I’ve been guilty of this myself, but I’m much more conscious to try and limit my use during exhibit hours.
Another great tag team tip is to give your other team members some helpful insights about a potential client you met or some feedback you received while sitting at the booth. Doing this will help them to go meet up with someone important face-to-face before the end of the trade show or communicate something valuable. Once you are tagged, go out and enjoy a little time away from the booth—get refreshed, stretch your legs and don’t let your stress or exhaustion show, no matter what. Keep smiling!
5. POSTMORTEM MEETING
Once you’ve returned from your trade show, hold a postmortem or lessons learned meeting with your team to discuss what went well and what could be improved next time. Start by leading the discussion with an overview of the number of new contacts or business cards collected, as well as all of the great accomplishments made by team members. Starting with the good news helps set the tone for a productive meeting. If there are some negatives to discuss, refer to them as “items to be improved upon” instead of calling them “mistakes” or something worse. Mention which promo items or booth displays looked great and show photos to your team so you can research costs for the next trade show.
Lastly, remember to thank your team for their hard work and leave them feeling better about the experience. Again, trade shows should be stress-free but as we all know that’s not always the case so it’s important to bring positivity to our team members so they don’t dread the next one.
The most important aspect of all sales and networking activities such as trade shows is the follow-up. This is the perfect time to grow and develop the relationship with your new contacts with the goal of teaming together on upcoming projects. Your sales team and other company reps in attendance should make phone calls and send emails no later than 10 days after the event. Want to make an even stronger impact? Send them a letter or postcard mailer as an additional follow-up. When you call them, confirm they received it. After you’ve established contact, don’t forget to ask them to connect on LinkedIn.
There you have it, my Six Stress-free Steps Towards Trade Show Success blog. I realize this is a lot to absorb but that’s why I’d like to help lighten your load a bit with your next event. The Stokes team and I are expert storytellers and masters at making you, your project, your business and yes, your booth, look incredible. Please call me at 609-859-8400 or email me and let’s talk about some of your trade show stressors and how the Stokes team and I can help!
-Nicole Pace, M.A. (Director of Marketing & Communication)