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How to Make the Most of Trade Shows in 2018

5th January 2018

The Power of Face-to-Face

This is the reason trade shows continue to be a huge opportunity for businesses. Being face-to-face with customers and suppliers is second to none. It might seem like a small detail but being in the presence of another person is still the best way to communicate. Face-to-face is much more effective than either video conferencing or email, so it’s the best place to get business done. A face-to-face request is 34 times more likely to be successful than an email (HBR, 2017). With that in mind, you might begin to see why going to a trade show is a great opportunity for your business.

On top of that, you’re going to get a much more accurate picture of how someone feels. This is because you get more feedback from signals like body language, speech inflection, and facial expressions. Of course, these are all absent in writing and phone calls, making face-to-face a unique opportunity that should not be ignored.

Having this volume of face-to-face meetings with people is extremely rare, especially in such a short amount of time. Establish who you must see, this will allow you to contact them ahead of time to arrange a meeting, remember this is the time and context to start new or renew relationships.

Because of the number of people that you can meet in one day, it’s also important to make sure you pick the right member of your team to work in your booth. You’ll need to look at the personalities in your business and match them to the occasion and how they might react to interacting with people all day. Believe it or not, trade shows get tiring!

A Branding Opportunity

Being a controlled environment, trade shows are a great chance to position and broadcast your brand to the right audience. You can show off everything that your company stands for, from the minor aspects to the major pillars of a company. This allows your potential customers to truly understand your company’s values and could even help win over some clients who are on the fence.

It’s important to establish how you’re going to do this. If you’ve got the budget, your actual booth is a great place to start. The booth is going to be seen by everyone so it has to perform a few functions, a few of these are:

Catching the eye (and imagination) of passer’s by

Having a unique stand can pay huge dividends. This is a chance to stand out from the competition, so don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Take time to consider how your stand looks from the outside and how it might contrast with the people around you, that way you are more likely to be memorable.

Entice walk-in’s

It depends on the type of show you want to have, do you want to stick to appointments or dedicate more time to walk-ins? Increasing the number of people interested in your brand is rarely a bad thing. If you want to entice more walk-ins you’ll need to put some work into your booth.

Outward facing posters or artwork, in general, should be top notch. Try not to use stock imagery, you won’t stand out and the images will never resonate with an audience. Try to use your own or custom designed images, if you don’t have time to make them, you can use Unsplash for photos (Authentic, Hi-Res, and Royalty Free). Alternatively, you can use our design studio to create something that will really work for you.

Make an Impression in appointments

It’s best practice to have some appointments pre-booked to ensure you make good use of your time. Yet, getting the appointments is only part of the battle. Take steps to ensure you give them the right impression while they're in your booth. First and foremost, consider what you’re wearing, make sure you dress at the right level for the event (and iron your shirt!). Practice your presentation or pitch so that your visitors received a polished experience. Along with that, make sure your reading and carry away materials are well made.

For your guides, make sure you also pick a talented copywriter to do them. Your visitors will be walking away with these, good copy is your best weapon in making sure these get read! Last but not least make sure you have enough business cards printed and then make sure you always have them to hand. It would be a shame to meet someone who you really need to know and not have any way for them to contact you?

Sign Ups

One of the main reasons many businesses go to trade shows! They’re one of the few places you’ll be able to have a large, relevant audience that you can talk to in person. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one trick’ to get more sign-ups. You have to bring all the elements of a good show together along with really broadcasting your unique selling points. By doing this you stand the best chance showing your potential value to would-be customers or suppliers.

You’ve also got to make sure you know how you’re going to capture them. Are you going to use a good old clipboard, paper and pen? Some people even have a stand for an iPad that conveniently lets visitors enter and save their details for you. Decide on a method and then make sure everything you need is in place, so that the sign-up process is as fast and painless as possible. Remember, you don’t need every detail about someone, pick the key pieces of information you need and then follow up after the show.

Find Out What Isn’t Working

If you want to continually improve your offering (and who doesn’t?) you’re going to need to try new things. Have you got ideas on how to make your booth more eye-catching than ever? A new sales pitch, or do you have some sort of PR stunt up your sleeve? Trade shows are a good opportunity to try some new things. You’re going to get immediate feedback both positive and negative from attendees.

For example, a company that sold Flea and Tick spray printed a huge image of a dog on the lobby floor, so that people could look down and see this:

Brilliant, no? At the other end of the spectrum, one company printed off custom toilet paper and replaced all the venue’s supply. This new paper blocked all the plumbing and flooded the venue. Try not to do that. 

None of us like it when we try something new and it backfires but a trade show will help you find this out quickly. With there being lots of people to hand this is also a good time to get feedback. Don’t be afraid to just ask people what they think of your presence at the show. Which makes it the perfect platform to test out new ideas – just don’t flood the place.

Check out Your Competition

Being in business means being in competition. Many of your competitors will be at trade shows trying new things and improving on the old and re-positioning themselves in the process. That means it’s time for you to go undercover (disguise optional) as this is the perfect place to find out what they’re up to.

This is a great time to either discover new ideas from your competitors for how to design your displays, or for the messaging you use at an event. You’ll also be able to discern the things that aren’t working for your competitors. Trust us, these events can be a great time to learn!

Not that we’re here to write you a guide on how to spy but if we were looking to learn a thing or two we would:

- Look for booths with lots of traffic.

- Make notes on how the booth looks.

- Go in and experience the booth – how does it differ from yours.

- Does anything there look like it would work in your booth?

- DO NOT poach people when you visit though. That is bad event etiquette and you don’t want to go about getting a reputation for that! 

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