Set up for Success: 10 Tips for Trade Show Planning

Preparing for a trade show to promote your business? Whether you’re a newcomer or a trade show veteran, review our helpful tips for trade show planning.

June 17, 2019

Trade shows and expos generated $13.2 billion in revenue in 2017. And that number is set to continue to grow in 2019 and beyond.

Are you getting your fair share of the pie? Read on for 10 tips for trade show planning that will help make your next trade show a huge success.

1. Plan Way in Advance

The best thing you can do as a trade show planner is to start early. There's no such thing as too early when planning a major event.

Likely, you will know the date and the venue. So you can start with an exhibition checklist and other event logistics. You can arrange travel and accommodations and so on before prices jump up.

The sooner you start, the less rushed your work will be leading up to the event.

2. Invest in Pre-Show Marketing

Pre-show campaign planning is vital. You should send personal invites to your top customers so they feel important and make sure to stop by your booth.

If you can, set up some one-on-one appointment slots with various attendees ahead of time.

Update your website to broadcast that you will be at this event, or build a brand new trade show website. Include it in your newsletters, customer emails, as well as on social media.

Right before the show, share some teasers with your audience to drive them to the event. If you are launching a new product or have some big news, it's wise to save it to share during the show.

If you have the budget for it, you can host an invite-only event such as a cocktail hour or pre-show dinner. Exclusive events are a great way to promote your attendance at a show.

People naturally want to be at an exclusive event because of FOMO. And you can promote the exclusive event on your channels ahead of time.

3. Bring Your Best People to the Show

Trade shows are first and foremost for marketing. That means you need to bring your superstars to the show. Choose your most outgoing, talkative, people-person team members.

Then, after the show, hand over all your leads to the best "closers" in your organization.

4. Make Your Display Table or Booth Stand Out

Trade show attendees will be walking around looking for which tables or booths to visit. Why should they visit yours?

Make sure that your display is appealing and enticing. Use your brand colors for tablecloths, balloons, and signage. Even if the trade show provides a tablecloth, bring a table runner in your own colors.

Brainstorm with your team on booth ideas so that you can draw in a crowd. You might want to use a vendor booth checklist to ensure that you've covered all your bases.

5. Use Video or Slideshows to Draw Attention

One of the best booth ideas to draw the attention of attendees is to use movements such as videos or slideshows.

A slideshow presentation of your best work is a great way to sell yourself without using any words.

Videos are also a great way to draw attention. You can repurpose existing content that you've used in the past (such as commercials and promotional videos), or you can create new footage for the event if you have the budget.

Have your video or slideshow play on a loop without sound. The trade show will be so noisy that any audio would likely get drowned out anyway.

If you don't have flat screen TVs or monitors, you can rent them for the event.

6. Show What You Can Do

As part of your booth ideas, include a portfolio of your work. It doesn't matter if you decorate cakes or design skyscrapers, show off your skills for everyone to see.

You can put printouts in a binder with page protectors or show off your work in your slideshow or video.

7. Plan Cool Giveaways

All vendors at trade shows give away brochures, pens, plastic bracelets, and business cards. And yes, you can have these promotional items on hand as well. It's best if you use a display rack to display flyers and brochures.

But to really wow your attendees, try to think of giveaways that they'll actually use and want. Keyring flashlights, insulated water bottles, sunglasses cleaning cloths, for example, are all useful items that people won't throw out the second they get home.

Brand your giveaways with your logo and people will be looking at your brand each day when they reach for your cool freebie!

Oh, and don't overlook edible giveaways! No one will turn down a free cookie, muffin, banana, etc. If you have pre-packaged items, make sure your company contact information is on it!

8. Have a Draw Prize

Who doesn't love winning prizes? Adjust your budget so you can offer a decent door prize. Look for an item that is somehow related to your business (a tech product for an IT company, for example).

Invite people to stop by your booth and fill in a ballet or drop their business card into a bowl.

This gives you a ton of leads that you can contact later. It's a win-win! You can live stream the draw on social media too at the end of the trade show.

9. Be Active on Social Media

Social media is an essential component to your trade show success. As a trade show planner, your job is to be prepared to send out social media posts before, during, and after the event.

Use a social media manager to schedule your posts ahead of time if you can. Then you'll have less to worry about during the day of the event.

You can entice attendees to drop by your booth on your channels. Tell them about your giveaways, demos, or contests that will be running during the event.

Don't forget to use the trade show hashtag and your booth number so attendees can find you.

10. Debrief and Follow Up

A day or two after the trade show, have a meeting with your team. Talk about what went well and what you could improve upon for next year.

Then, make sure you upload all your leads into your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Pass it over to your sales team within 48 hours of the end of the trade show.

You can also use the data to analyze booth traffic, the number of good leads, and revenue earned as a result of the trade show.  This data can help you set a budget for future events.

Final Thoughts on Trade Show Planning

There you have it! 10 tips to help you conquer trade show planning.

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