The temperature is starting to drop, the leaves are starting to fall off the trees and every football fan’s productivity is taking a dip on Saturdays and Sundays. It can only mean one thing: tradeshow season is coming. Months of planning and the big day is rapidly approaching, but are you ready? Although the overall importance of tradeshows is different for each organization, it can be a great way to learn about and interact with your customers.  Whether you’re the veteran with 20 of these under your belt or the rookie going to their first show, here are a few tips to help you rock your next tradeshow:

  1. Know your purpose: Before you head down the path of planning what’s in your booth, be sure to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re even attending. Some common answers we hear from our clients are, “We went last year,” “We’re stuck in a contract,” or “Our competitors are going.” While these all have validity on some level, are they truly good reasons? What is your purpose for having a booth? Will it accelerate lead generation? Will you connect with key customers or media? Whatever your purpose for attending, establish your strategy before you throw down the dollars to exhibit.
  2. Determine success factors: There’s no two ways about it, exhibiting at tradeshows can be expensive. You’re spending a lot of money to attend the show, so make sure you determine your key KPIs to measure success when all is said and done. This way, you, your team and your boss know exactly what success looks like. Maybe it’s the number of meetings you want to set with customers or media. Maybe it’s the number of leads generated. Whatever it is, make sure you can quantify your success.
  3. Create an experience: If you’ve ever been on the floor of a tradeshow, you know it’s enough to make someone’s head spin. Tradeshows are loud, busy and hectic. How’s your booth going to stand out from the crowd? Prominently showcase products in your booth and consider making an event of it. For example, if you’re unveiling a new product, alert customers and media before the show that the unveiling will take place in your booth at a specific time to draw attention and foot traffic.
  4. Ditch the fishbowl: Free stuff is great. But qualified leads for your business are even better. We all know the classic fishbowl technique: business cards go in and magically one of your top customers or prospects is chosen to win a free iPad! Instead of buying that iPad, use that investment to purchase the attendee list of who will be at the show. Identify and qualify the attendees that you need to connect with, schedule appointments with them and at the end of the tradeshow, develop a follow-up plan with your sales team.
  5. Dress the part: There are few surfaces that are more uncomfortable to stand and walk on all day than thinly carpeted concrete. This isn’t the time to debut those new stylish heels or dress shoes. Comfortable and sensible are the keys here —your feet and back will thank you later.
  6. Be authentic: The best way to connect with people is by being genuine and honest. At a tradeshow, customers are bombarded with special offers and show deals, so make sure you don’t come off as too salesy or pushy. Relax, be yourself and take the time to learn more about your customers.
  7. Pack a survival kit: At tradeshows, you need to be prepared to deal with anything. Pack a survival kit full of things like Band-Aids®, shoe-inserts, Velcro, duct tape, a lint roller, extension cords, a phone charger, batteries, and anything else you even think you may need.
  8. Maintain momentum: It’s easy to come back from a tradeshow and swiftly move on to the next item on your to-do list. Pump those brakes! You just spent months prepping and you put in all that time at the show, don’t let it go to waste. Have a lead follow-up plan developed and execute it. Also evaluate what your results were on your previously identified success factors. Don’t lose steam as soon as you pull out of the exhibition center parking lot.

All and all, tradeshows can be crazy, but a little pre-planning can help keep you sane and ensure that you’re making the most of the experience.

Need help planning for your next tradeshow? Contact us—we’ve seen just about everything, and we’re happy to assist.