How to Work a Trade Show

Maggie Neff, Chattanooga TREND Contributor

Heading to a trade show but struggling to organize your to-do list? Focusing your efforts on a few key objectives can help establish a framework for your preparations and elevate your success to the next level. 

Plan, plan, plan.

Setting goals is the crucial first step to any plan, so why should your trade show be any different? According to Susan Brake of Development Counsellors International, outlining clear goals will not only help direct your focus but also establish metrics for measuring success. Do you want to increase leads by 20 percent? Grow your national presence to all 50 states? Meet with at least 30 executives during the event? Figure out what you want out of your trade show, and develop a plan to make it happen.

Don’t wait until the last minute.

Most trade show participants plan meetings weeks, and even months, in advance. Identify people with whom you will want to meet and schedule time with them well ahead of the event.

Make social media work for you.

Brake advises researching your tradeshow’s audience to learn which social media platforms they access most. Creating a Facebook campaign will yield disappointing results if the target audience is more active on LinkedIn or Twitter.

This audience research will also help you target and attract people of interest during the event.

“Make a Twitter list of attendees that interest you and monitor their activity during the trade show for engagement opportunities,” says Kristyna Bronner, account executive at Development Counsellors International.

She adds that attendees should also “look up relevant hashtags and handles and use those on your social media posts leading up to and during the trade show.”

To make social media posts more engaging, Bronner also suggests adding images or graphics, as well as utilizing live-streaming capabilities on Facebook and Twitter.

Be on your game…

In the Forbes article “The 12 Commandments Of Incredibly Successful Tradeshows,” sales guru Ken Krogue writes that attendees should be assertive, but also kind:

“[T]alk to everyone, and have your entire staff do the same. Don’t sit down. Don’t leave drinks and food around the booth. Be kind.”

This attitude goes a long way toward making connections at trade shows, Krogue writes, and making connections is what these events are all about. And on the subject of connections, he also suggests you trade leads with other vendors. There might be overlap, but still, it’s a win-win scenario and you just might make a business ally along the way.

…and don’t be afraid to play one!

Remember, people attend trade shows, and people—even in a business setting—like to have fun. Don’t be afraid to exhibit a little flair at your event. It will make you stand out to other participants and vendors, and, as Krogue writes, being memorable can be a good thing.

Measure success.

Don’t waste your time going to trade shows if you can’t measure the benefit of them. After the event has concluded, take the time to sit down with your team and discuss what worked and what didn’t work.

“Did you get an increase in engagement, schedule meetings, did people sign up for your promotion? What behavior did your marketing help influence?” Blake writes. “That’s what you’ll want to measure and report back to your stakeholders.”

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