10 Trade Show Tips and Tricks

A few weeks ago, I went to the Shot Show with a client. Before I get into the tips for a successful


trade show, let me start by saying WOW! The Shot Show was by far the biggest show I’ve attended. I know that shows like CES are bigger (I’ve never been), but this was almost overwhelming.

Anyway, while I was at the Shot Show, I noticed that a lot of the vendors didn’t seem to have a clue as to how to run their booth. Based on that, I thought I’d come up with a list of tips for those who are willing to admit they can use some help.

1. Go with a plan. As opposed to just wanting to “sell stuff,” set obtainable goals. If it’s a buying show, look at how much you sold at the last show and then plan to sell a reasonable percentage more. What’s reasonable? Start with your average growth – 10% annually, year over year – and go from there.

Personally, I prefer to set goals like talking to a certain number of people, or obtaining a certain number of business cards. Attending a show with the goal of selling stuff just sets you up for a stressful experience. You won’t have a measure of success, so you’ll be working to achieve an unreachable goal.

2. Instead of giving away free product to anyone and everyone, think about bartering. Trade product for business cards. At big shows, a lot of qualified prospects are reluctant to hand out their cards for fear of too many sales emails after the show. However, most people like free stuff. So, offer a trade: product for a card. This worked incredibly well at the Shot Show.

3. Looking professional doesn’t have to be expensive. This goes for the booth and the booth staff. Black t-shirts and khakis are easy and professional enough for most shows. But don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

If you can’t afford fancy booth displays, a double-sided pop-up banner will (should) run you under $300. Have a professional design it and you’ll at least have one display item that represents your brand well. And if that is all you can afford, be creative. Need help with the creative part, contact me at Tinderbox Consulting (shameless plug).

BONUS TIP: Get bids from several promotional product companies. Don’t settle on the first bid. Same goes for designers. The most expensive doesn’t always mean it’s going to be the best… same goes for the cheapest. Do your research. But that’s another blog for another time.

4. Have plenty of cards, order forms, price sheets and brochures. Nothing is more embarrassing than someone asking you for an order form and your response is, “I’m sorry, but we ran out.” What you’re really saying is, “I’m sorry, but we weren’t prepared for this show.”

5. Stand up. Unless you or your staff are writing orders, you should always stand while in the booth. Pretty sure this is self explanatory.

6. Engage anyone that looks at your booth. Seriously. If they look, they are at least midly interested. Don’t just pitch them though. Say something funny, creative, endearing or at the very least, say something authentic. “Having a good show?” is a great way to start.

7. Don’t ever ask, “want a demonstration?” Just give one. Once someone is in your booth, just show them how your product works. Assume they want to know.

8. Own your demonstration (or pitch). Be confident in your presentation, even if on the inside you’re freaking out. Focus on the product and you’ll be fine.

9. Most business happens at night, after the show. Set appointments before you even get to the show. Find out who’s going – clients, prospects, vendors, suppliers, members of the media  – and schedule dinner or drinks in the evening. A lot of people go to the shows for fun as well as business. You can do both at an after hours dinner.

10. Relax and have fun. Trade shows should be fun, not a pain in the neck. If they aren’t fun for you, find members of your team that enjoy shows. Send them instead. Send team members that are comfortable talking to strangers, even if those team members work in the warehouse. Your team’s level of fun will be contagious to those walking by, whether it’s positive or negative.

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