How to prepare for your first expo, trade show or industry event


 Aside from showcasing your products and services, trade shows and expos are an excellent networking opportunity, as well as a chance to grow your brand recognition and image. If your company is attending one for the first time, you’ll want to put your best foot forward and create a lasting impression. Here are some tips for getting the behind-the-scenes work right and making sure the event goes as smoothly as possible, so you can focus on selling your brand.

Brainstorm well in advance

It’s always easier to prepare for an event when you know what to expect, so ideally you want your first show to be at an expo you’ve attended as a visitor in the past. If that’s not possible, try and attend any event hosted at the venue so you can get a basic idea of which stalls grab your attention, what kind of displays do and don’t work, how noisy the area is likely to be, etc.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Next you need to outline your goals. Be specific, coming up with a list of objectives (such as collecting contacts for networking, giving samples away, providing product demos, or generating leads) as well as a description of how you intend to tick all these boxes. This set of goals and their accompanying strategies will become your game plan.

Booth location – balance cost against visibility

Trade shows and expos can be expensive affairs to participate in, and the booths with the best visibility and highest levels of foot traffic come at a premium. You’ll need to find the balance between what your budget allows, while ideally not ending up shunted off in the far corner. Your product and expo team also play a role here. If you’ve got a charming, extroverted salesperson who isn’t going to be shy to get out on the floor and bring people over to your booth, you can likely get away with a cheaper, more out of the way stall. The same goes if you have the kind of product that inspires people’s curiosity naturally or gets them talking. If neither of these apply, it may be worth your while to dedicate more of your budget to getting a highly visible booth.

Gather your gear

The day of the event is stressful enough without finding out at the last minute that you’ve misplaced that niggly power cable you need to showcase the interactive visual presentation you spent weeks working on. Make sure to have a checklist of everything you need and get to the venue as early as possible to set up.

Planning your display is your chance to get creative and stand out. Partnering with a company that hires out exciting gadgets, such as video walls or giant Itabs, as well as more standard fare like PA system hire and lighting is an effective way to get noticed without blowing your entire budget.

Try to make the experience visitors have at your stall as tactile as possible, with a combination of stimulating visuals and audio, as well as physical objects they can interact with or take home.

Put together a team that complements each other’s skills

Naturally introverted people often battle at bustling events like trade shows, so make sure you have some more outgoing types to bolster your shrinking violets! Partnering an extroverted salesperson with a behind-the-scenes expert who can answer more in-depth queries from visitors, or someone who can deliver a great product demonstration with a conscientious employee who can collect contact details and make sure every visitor comes away with a leaflet or freebie are just a few examples.

If some members of your staff are particularly nervous, it might be helpful to run a few mock sessions from the safety of your office, going through likely questions and practicing their responses ahead of time.

Make your space inviting

If your budget is too tight for a jaw-dropping light show or massive video wall, there’s one tried and tested low-budget technique to bring visitors in – offer them a comfy place to put their feet up! Offering free coffee, tea or mineral water and an inviting lounge area doesn’t cost much but will offer loads of appeal to expo visitors who’ve been on their feet for hours.

Always collect contacts and have freebies to give away

Trade show visitors are bombarded with information during the event, most of which will rapidly fade in their minds. Making sure they leave with some kind of freebie or promotional item can prevent that from happening, especially if it’s a very useful item. Soon after the event, gather all the contact details you collected and send out a thank you mailer to reinforce the impression your brand made and remind them of who you are and what you do.