12 Trade Show Tips for Inexperienced Exhibitors – Part 1

First, we are going to assume that you’ve already chosen the trade show you plan on exhibiting.

Second, we are going to assume you don’t have much experience (or any at all) with exhibiting.

Third, don’t worry! There’s a lot to do but we’ve got you covered.

In this 3-part series, we are going to cover what you should do (as an exhibitor) before, during and after a trade show. They will be “rules” or “tips” that will enable you and your company to get the most out of the trade show experience.

To start things off, we give you the 10 rules to follow before exhibiting the trade show. We’ve compiled a list of the most resourceful and trustworthy brands and individuals in the trade show industry (including ourselves!) to give you a comprehensive overview that will sufficiently prepare you for successful exhibition.

1. Create a realistic budget

You either have the option of giving yourself a budget for a trade show, or it’s given to you. Either way, you’ll need to allocate the budget to several things such as:

  • Trade show fee
  • Trade show exhibit and design
  • Shipping
  • Travel and entertainment
  • Promotion

It’s unlikely you’ll be granted with everything you want.

If you have no past numbers to rely on (or starting from scratch), assume the total cost of exhibiting will be 3 times the cost of the exhibit space. So if your exhibit space cost $2,000, plan on spending $6,000.

In order to accomplish your goals and do the exhibit justice, refer to this document on trade show budgeting from Red Cedar PR and Marketing:

The document suggests how to allocate your budget throughout the planning process. Most people vastly underestimate the total cost, which causes them to overspend.

Here is another great post from Display Wizard on budgeting for a trade show: http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2014/25969/how-to-budget-for-tradeshows-and-events

2. Make a list of goals and objectives

Going to a trade show should have a purpose other than, “well we went last year!”

You should have a clear list of goals and objectives lined up in order to get the most out of the exhibition.  Objectives will help your team maintain focus on what’s important. Check out this list Smart Trade Shows created on setting trade show objectives. The image below covers a few of the points. But read the entire article for more information on setting goals and objectives.

trade show objectives list

3. Figure out what you’ll be doing at your booth

Who will set up the booth?  What will you be doing at your booth? How many people will be there?

It’s important to set up a schedule for each person so everyone will share an even workload. Otherwise one person may be stuck at the booth all day without a break, while others are walking the floor. Setting a schedule with staggered breaks will combat this problem.

Also, what will you bring? Do you prefer to sit down or stand? How many people will be manning the booth? Are you bringing a product? Are you selling a service? Are you handing out brochures?

Depending on your answers, you may need to bring chairs for sitting, a smaller booth to accommodate more people, a literature stand for  brochures, etc.

This is important! Talk with your team and plan ahead.

4. Decide who will be representing your booth

The third steps leads us into #4 – who will you bring to represent your company and staff the booth? It could be your most experienced sales representative or someone that’s really passionate about your business. Bring a team of individuals who:

  • You want to represent your company and brand image
  • Are confident individuals
  • Enjoy talking about your products/services
  • Volunteer to go

Most importantly, never force an employee to staff the booth.

5. Buy or rent trade show displays

If you plan on attending multiple trade shows year in and year out, it will make sense to buy your own trade show booth and accessories. However, if you are only going to one or two a year (or if it’s your first time) you may want to rent your displays.

Some conferences have their own suppliers for trade show products. Some do not. Usually when you sign up as an exhibitor, the trade show coordinators will supply you with this information.

If you have to find your own trade show products, then we’ve got you covered! We carry banner stands, pop ups, outdoor displays, TRUSS systems, and tons of accessories.

Keep in mind that a lot of products designed for trade shows are extremely cheap and typically don’t last for more than 1 or 2 trade shows. But have no fear! Not only are our products high-quality, but they are extremely easy to setup and lightweight. This allows for easy transport and you won’t spend hours setting up your station. We also honor a lifetime guarantee for our display hardware.

If you have any questions, call us. We’d love to help you out.

6. Keep the design clean, simple and professional

Make sure the design of your booth represents your brand. A lot of booths go all out and include way too much color and information leaving attendees overwhelmed.

If you have a graphic designer, have them create a few mockups before locking into a final design. If not, find a supplier that can do the designs for you. Good news, National Trade Show Displays can design for you!

Seriously, don’t skimp out on the design. Make sure it’s professional and has a clear message to the attendees. Don’t forget to include your brand’s name and logo (and stick with your brand’s color scheme).

If you are looking for more information on trade show booth designs, check out our blog post or this post from Ranch House Designs.

7. Book a hotel and rental car (if necessary) well in advance

If you know you will be exhibiting at a trade show in a few months time, go ahead and book your flight and hotel as soon as possible. Go ahead and reserve a car rental, too, if needed.

This will save money and give you a concrete number for travel and living expenses so you can allocate your budget accordingly.

8. Use social media to notify customers and businesses of your presence

social media for trade showsSocial media is a great way to spread awareness of your upcoming trade show exhibit. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+ or Instagram, you will be able to notify all your customers and followers. This will help drive qualified booth attendance.

Use hashtags so attendees can find you easily, and be sure to tag the actual trade show’s social media account (if they have one). They typically promote any mentions from exhibitors to help spread awareness.

9. Check for your company info on the trade show’s website

Did you know over 70% of trade show attendees take the time to prepare a list of the trade show exhibitors they plan to visit when they go to the trade show? That’s a lot of people!

Check the trade show’s website and make sure your company is listed under exhibitors. Double check your company information and bio (if there is one). And make sure your booth location is correctly labeled so attendees can find you easily.

If you can’t find your information, email the trade show coordinator and notify them. They will typically be accommodating and update any information you request.

10. Figure out how you’ll collect leads

Collecting leads is perhaps the most important thing you’ll do at the trade show. Therefore it’s critical you and your team have a system in place to collect leads.

Here are some common ways to gather a list of leads:

  • Collecting business cards
  • Filling out hand-written lead forms
  • Using a badge scanner
  • Filling out a web-form on a tablet or computer

The easiest method is collecting business cards; just about everyone has one and all you have to do is ask. Simple and effective but this can lead to time consuming data entry when you get back to the office.

Going digital is just as easy and effective, and it can be viewed and accessed by all your salespeople immediately. Consider using a tablet for individuals to fill out a lead form instead of collecting business cards. Or do both. It’s entirely up to you!

Lead Scoring

You should also have a lead scoring system in place. Lead scoring allows you to qualify someone as a “hot”, “cold” or “warm” lead. This should have an impact on how you will follow up with that individual after the trade show.

For example, you may want to call a “hot” lead a few days after the trade show. But for a “cold” lead you may just put them on your email list.

Check out our lead capturing guide to learn more. And here is a list of other helpful resources when it comes to collecting leads:


11. Keep track of your actual spend

This will allow you to properly calculate your return on investment after the event is over. Because if the ROI of the trade show didn’t meet or exceed your expectations, you’ll need to re-evaluate the event and figure out if it’s worth going to next year.

Plus this is a good deliverable for your bosses to prove (or disprove) the value of a trade show. Keep in mind a lot of the leads may not convert for months afterwards, so the ROI may adjust.

12. Will you be bringing giveaways, or SWAG?

Everyone is a fan of SWAG! You’ll notice a lot of attendees only show interest in your company because they want whatever you’re giving away. But don’t let that discourage you.

Most companies bring something to give away to attendees, some don’t. If you decide to you’ll be giving away items, make sure you allocate this into the budget. You may be surprised by how much 500 custom pens cost you.

Try to stand out. Bring something that people will remember.

For example: if you own a software company, you could install a demo of your software on a USB drive and hand that out to attendees. They will get a free demo and be more likely to follow up afterwards for the paid version.

Check out SOBO Concepts for more ideas and products for your trade show giveaways

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