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9 Things to Know About Attending Your First Trade Show

9 Things That Can Help You Succeed at Your First Trade Show

Trade shows offer a fantastic opportunity to connect with a larger audience. You can head all over the country to exhibit your business and make your mark. However, if you’ve never been, you might not be sure what to expect or how you can succeed amidst hundreds of competitors.

Here are nine things you should know for your first show.

1. Make Your Display Stand Out

Your display should both send the right message and stand out to passersby. There will be dozens of competitor booths at this trade show, and if you can’t find a way to stand out, many potential customers will walk right by.

“Sending the right message can be difficult, but not when you let the right custom tent do the talking for you,” says the custom tent and canopy retailer eCanopy. They recommend branding a tent so that you’re easily recognizable from the crowd.

2. Use Unique Giveaways to Garner Attention

“You need something to draw people toward your booth,” Josh Weiss, founder of Bluegala told AllBusiness. “Once they are there, you will have their attention to make your pitch. By giving away something unique that will draw attention, you will have a better chance to get people’s ears.”

Unique is the keyword here. Everyone will have free swag gifts, including pens, bags, and koozies. You’ll draw more people if you give away something a little more exciting or useful, like branded charge cords, moleskin notebooks, and other industry-appropriate, useful giveaways.

You might also have a contest or drawing for people to participate in. Market this giveaway so that passersby are inclined to stop. As they sign up for the contest, ask for their email address and permission to send promotional content.

3. Be Prepared with Business Cards and Handouts

If you call ahead, you’ll get a good idea of how many people usually attend these events, so you know how many business cards and handouts to bring. Keep in mind that not everyone there will stop at your booth, but be prepared with a sizeable stack for those who do.

4. Talk to Everyone

You’ll get a lot more participation if you connect with everyone who passes by. They may not know that they need your services or products until you speak to them. Assuming passersby will only buy if they initiate contact is a mistake many first-time attendees make.

“You would be surprised by how many exhibitors stay seated and don’t try to engage with clients,” Cindy Perea of Trade Show News Network shares. “Something as simple as smiling or saying ‘Hi’ will surprise clients and will make them want to stop by your booth. People like being noticed.”

5. Focus on Your Unique Selling Proposition

Every trade show exhibitor needs an angle if they want to make sales and generate leads. Consider what your business can offer your target customers and what you need to do to beat the competition. This will require quite a bit of preparation ahead of time, but it will be well worth the effort for the number of leads you generate.

6. Target Your Customers

Out of the thousands of customers that attend tradeshows, there may be several hundred interested in your services. Know who they are, what they’re interested in, and how you can connect with them.

It can be helpful to create customer personas beforehand. This will help you identify and reach out to those most interested in your company.

7. Have Fun and Let It Show

Trade shows are supposed to be fun, but it’s surprising how many exhibitors clearly don’t enjoy the experience. When you’re unenthusiastic about the event, you can hardly hope to generate enthusiasm from potential customers.

“The majority of people walking around the exhibit hall are looking for some sort of outlet to balance out the endless sessions and meetings they are participating in,” marketer Vinny Antonio also told AllBusiness. “Give them a breather. Become an attraction. Everyone is going to give away some $2 premium item — don’t make that the hook. Make the experience the reason everyone is talking about your booth, and they will flock to you.”

8. Pay Extra for Lead Tracking

Many trade shows offer lead tracking data for an upcharge. If it’s an option for your first show, it’s worth the extra money. With lead tracking, visitors can have a badge or “passport” scanned when they visit your booth. After the show, you can access details like names and emails of everyone who stopped by.

9. Follow Up

Once you have leads, follow up before they get cold.

“Remember your primary goal: turn trade show introductions into long-term business relationships,” says Charles Dugan of Bplans. “With this in mind, reach out to those you met… Do this all within a few days of the trade show—you don’t want to lose momentum.”

The
faster you reach out, the faster you’ll see results from your first show.

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