Trade Show Tips

You’ve decided to set up a vendor booth at a trade show or event – fantastic! The big question is, “How do I make the most of this experience?” I’m glad you asked, as I have some great tips.

PREPARATION

  • BOOTH LOGISTICS
    • Find out the size of your booth. If you sign up early, you may be able to secure a corner spot or a preferred location.
      • Also ask if there are any height restrictions, if you are bringing a display or free-standing wall. If you plan to hang a banner, confirm that there is a way to do that. Be sure to bring your own supplies for hanging (bungee cords or rope).
    • Will a table be provided or do you need to bring your own?
      • If a table is provided, what size?
    • Contact the event coordinator with any special needs, such as electricity, etc. They may not be available, so have a backup plan.
    • Get a TABLE COVERING with your logo
      • A full tablecloth is great, but you can save some money by getting a table runner (typically, 24-36″ wide and goes front to back). Get a low cost white or black tablecloth to go under it.
      • A tablecloth, though more expensive, does give you advertising space on the sides, so people can see you before they get to your booth.
      • If you need a table covering, you can get them here: TABLE COVERINGS.
    • Make your booth attractive
      • BANNERS, RETRACTABLE BANNERS, and wall decor all bring more people into your booth.
      • Plan for enticing displays of your product(s). Keep in mind that sometimes less is more. If your booth is too cluttered, people get overwhelmed.
    • Schedule your workers
      • If it’s just you, that’s fine. however, if you have other people who are going to help with your booth, make sure that they know their schedule and know how to interact with the visitors.
      • You and your booth workers should all be dressed appropriately for your business. A shirt embroidered with your logo is a fantastic way to say that everyone is a professional and part of the team.
    • Other necessities
      • First aid kit – a few bandages and some ibuprofen are really all you need.
      • Drinks / snacks – they may not be provided at the event.
      • Change of clothes. You may get dirty setting up or have a spill – good to have another outfit.
      • Tools – if you have any moving parts or things to put together, it’s good to have these.
      • Extension cord, if you have electronics – don’t expect this to be provided.
      • Notepad & pen/pencils.
      • Cash box, if you are selling at the event.
        • Nobody wants to see that you’ve made a ton of money from the event, and it may not be safe to show off a big wad of cash. Put the 20’s and excess small bills in one pocket or a lock box and keep just enough 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s available for making change.
        • Make sure that lock box is secure. You can get a bicycle lock and string it through the box handle and the table hardware. A thief won’t bother unlocking a box to get the money, they want to grab the whole box and go. You may think it’s all safe because it’s a “nice” event, but I’ve known people who have had their money taken at some of these “nice” events.
      • Chair – one may not be supplied.
        • Recommendation from a friend that has done this many times – bring a bar stool, as it is taller and, if you need to sit, you can do so while remaining at eye-level with your visitors.
      • Hand fan for yourself – it can get hot in your booth and you will appreciate having this.
  • GIVE-A-WAYS
    • This is a big part of your success. You want people to see you at the event, but also to remember you when they leave. Make sure you have plenty of business cards and brochures/flyers.
    • If you have a product to sell, it’s best to have samples of that product to give away. However, if you offer a service or larger product, you can get some PROMOTIONAL ITEMS to give away so that people will remember you after the event.
    • Plan a sweepstake item – in exchange for contact information, offer a big prize. Doesn’t have to be overly large, but significant enough that people will give you their contact info. Could be a gift certificate for your product/service, large basket of your product, or something else enticing enough to get attention.
      • Be sure to bring some business card sized notecards that people can fill out with their name & contact info, if they don’t have a business card.
      • Alternatively, you can use a sign up sheet and ask people to fill it out. Be sure to bring extra pens/pencils.
  •  ADVERTISING
    • If this is an open event (community festival, business expo, etc.) be sure to advertise it to your contacts via email, social media, etc. Invite people to stop by your booth to say “hi”. Sure, they already know you, but do they really know what you do? This also helps out the other vendors and the event host.
    • If you have enough people working in your booth, you can even offer to set appointments with your contacts (especially out of towners) for when they visit.

EVENT DAY

  • SETUP
    • Arrive early enough to get set up and have some time to relax. Be aware that some people may arrive early or other vendors may come look at your booth. Relaxing is fine, but also be ready to work.
      • Arriving early also gives you an opportunity for a last minute upgrade of your booth, if someone didn’t show – you might be able to move to a more desirable location or even take 2 spots, if it’s your neighbor that canceled.
    • Keep your PROMOTIONAL ITEMS hidden. What?!?! That’s right, keep them hidden until you are ready to give one to a visitor.
      • Consider your PROMOTIONAL ITEMS gifts, not freebies to be grabbed by everyone coming by. If you want something for them to grab, get a bowl of candy (the good stuff, not the hard candies that nobody wants – that just shows that you are cheap.)
      • When someone stops to visit or has a conversation with you, reach down to your hidden place and grab their PROMOTIONAL ITEM “gift”, presenting it as a “thank you for stopping by” present. This has much more meaning than something grabbed off your table. And, it keeps people from grabbing a handful.
        • If people don’t want to stop and talk or even look at your booth, are they really a potential client of yours? Probably not – save your money by only giving the “gifts” to those who may become a client.
    • Make sure your sweepstake bowl (basket, bag, sign-up sheets, etc.) is easily seen and you have a sign telling what it’s for.
    • Make friends with the people in the booths next to you. If you are the only person in your booth, you may want to take a bathroom break at some point and you can ask one of your new “friends” to keep an eye on things for you. In addition, you never know where you are going to find a client.
  • CUSTOMER INTERACTION
    • No phones, books, or other distractions for you – your goal is to meet visitors. If you have a chair, use it sparingly, unless needed for health reasons.
    • Greet every customer when they stop to visit.
    • Engage in conversation, not a one-way presentation.
      • Avoid the temptation to go into a full-blown sales pitch. Sometimes, this may take all your willpower, but it’s for the best.
        • Start with a high level statement such as “I help (who do you help) to (what do you help with) by (how does it work)”. For example, “I help business owners be remembered after an event by providing them with memorable promotional items to give away.” Your statement should trigger an emotion.
      • Let the visitor lead you to more information. If they ask questions, respond with meaningful information, not a sale pitch.
        • If you feel that they have a great potential to become a client, ask if you can set up an appointment to discuss in more depth, after the event. Your urge will be to make the sale right there, but how long will it take you to do so, at the expense of ignoring other visitors to your booth.
          • Of course, if you are doing direct sales, go ahead and make that sale. The tip above is for those not selling an instant product.
    • Ask them to enter your sweepstake. This is how you get their contact info for follow-up.

AFTER EVENT

  • FOLLOW-UP
    • You collected business cards from the people who stopped in your booth. Send them an email or call soon to follow up. Do NOT send them a sales pitch, but rather a “nice to meet you” note. If you can, send them some useful information or a coupon.
  • SCHEDULE APPOINTMENTS
    • If some people expressed interest in your products or services, go ahead and set up an appointment.
      • I use a FREE tool called You Can Book Me (YouCanBook.me) – it syncs with my calendar and all I have to do is send the link to people and they can book their own appointments.

Best of luck with your event – I know that it will be successful, using these tips.