How to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience by Alek Sabin

Event marketing and trade shows are a huge opportunity to market at events that specifically cater to your target audience in a specific industry.

There’s no other way to meet a large number of people that are likely to be specifically interested in your product and services in a single location, especially one that is meant to promote face-to-face interactions. When it comes to different types of events, it is important to know How to Market an Event and research before just planning right away.

As such, when figuring out your marketing in your business plan, always make sure to specify how your business can be benefitted by trade shows (these are especially valuable to upstarts and new businesses).

Let’s go over some of the key benefits of marketing at trade shows...

  • You get to meet with a huge concentration of passionate fans. 
  • Face-to-face contact gives you lots of opportunities for feedback and for personal connections. 
  • You’ll connect with local resources, which can strengthen both of you. 
  • You’re more in touch with what’s going on in the industry, what’s new and current, what people are attracted to and excited about. 

Trade shows are a great place to drum up some business when other outlets are slowing down, but there are very clear goals that you should expect from them. So, in order to make the most out of these advantages, read on for some suggestions for making a splash at your next trade show.

Network with Other Presenters
Many of us make the mistake of thinking that the networking opportunities at a trade show simply extend from your business to the customers who paid to get into the convention. But that’s simply not true! In fact, when the crowd going past your booth has slowed down, take a look around. The people presenting in other booths are probably the biggest fanatics in the industry. So, if you’re at FitCon and you want to advertise your new health-energy bars, make sure that the people who are selling running shoes know about them. They probably run more than anyone. Let the people selling energy drinks know about it too. Maybe there are opportunities for cross-promotion that can benefit you both! 

Think the Swag Through
Swag is a staple at conventions and trade shows. After all, you’ll make very few final sales at the actual show. What you want is for people to go home and look into your business more, or call you to follow up on a discussion. Therefore, it’s essential that you have SOMETHING with your name, website, and number for people to keep in contact with you. However, the truth is that many of your customers will be saturated with stress balls, cheap pens, and fliers. 

So think hard about your swag. If you want to demonstrate a product, give free samples. If you can think of a fun pun to put on your take-home swag, go for it. If you’re going to use a classic, like t-shirts, or pens, make sure that you have the highest quality and that it effectively reflects your brand. But best of all, think outside the box. Surprise people with something they haven’t seen before, but they’re charmed by. Something that they’ll pull out later with a smile on their face. 

Make Your Booth Interactive
People learn more and remember more when several senses are engaged. One of the most powerful ways to build memory is through tactile interaction. It’s also the best way to keep people around for more than a glance and nod. 

I’m going to list a few ways that I’ve seen booths successfully engage their customers, but remember that the more creative you are, the more impression you leave. Best of all, make it something that applies to the product or company that you’re promoting. For example, if you’re a social media marketing company, you can set up a photo booth where people can take pictures from the convention and post it on social media. If you’re promoting a health product, have something that allows people to check their own health. I’ve seen a booth before at an emergency preparedness convention that taught people how to pick locks. It was the most popular place! Pair these interactions with giveaways and opportunities to learn more. 

  • Shopping racks where people can interact with actual products and browse through sales. 
  • Food samples - people will always adjust their trajectory in order to intercept free food, and if it’s as good as you hope it is, they’ll stick around to savor it. 
  • Games - from paper airplane contests to cornhole, there are tons of games that are fun and simple to pick up. Customize them so they’re in theme with your booth and your brand. 
  • Quizzes - if you’re trying to raise awareness about something, quiz your customers! People love to share what they know and they learn better if they’ve guessed wrong, too. 

One thing to note when you are coming up with zany ideas to give your booth more of a spark is to keep safety in mind. The companies that host these events take safety very seriously, and anything that negatively impacts guest safety will be very quickly shot down.

Maximize Your Visual Appeal and At-a-Glance Information
Sometimes, all you have is the first impression. You’ve been given a whole booth: make sure that you utilize all that space! There’s a reason that you have a booth instead of just a podium to speak from. People who drift by as you’re busy talking to someone else should still get something out of your booth, something that will make them want to come back or have them thinking about your company later. 

So, first of all, decorate in a theme. Think of your booth like a huge ad. What do you want to communicate? What’s your color palette? Use backdrops, screens, tablecloths, exhibition booths, and visual aids to show everyone just walking by exactly what your business is about. I can’t tell you how many booths I’ve seen that are just a table, a couple of dudes, and a few fliers. Go above and beyond. Make sure that you can catch the eye from across the room. Play appropriate music, add mood lighting, manipulate your space so it draws people in like moths to a flame. 

Secondly, consider what you want people to see about your company, even if they never talk with someone at the booth. Will they know what your brand is all about? Think about what a poster at a science fair will do. Think about what mascots do. Think about what a video can do, playing in the background. All of these are ways that people can interact with your company without even talking to someone.

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