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How To Prepare For A Trade Show

Amy Chan

Posted on October 15 2014

Most people think that getting accepted to a trade show is all the preparation you need.  Most people think you show up to the show, and magic happens, after all, that’s why you’re there, to see and be seen, and have business boom.  Most people think that setting up your booth is a mere formality toward success at a trade show.

Don’t be like most people.

If you want to write blank checks and toss them off the roof of the Empire State Building, you can.  But if you want to maximize the effect of your marketing budget, particularly when at a Trade Show, you need to prepare.  The months and weeks leading up to the trade show allow for you to flush out your thinking, your goals, your game plan, and your strategy to get the most you can out of this limited-time opportunity.

So how do you prepare for a trade show?

First and foremost, you must set goals, and obtainable and realistic goals at that.  Don’t be tricked into thinking that simply attending the trade show, and getting your presence out there into the world, is all that you need from your show appearance.  Spend some time thinking about what you actually want to get out of the show, and be as concrete as possible.  Don’t simply say: I want 1000 more contacts.  That’s unrealistic, abstract, and pointless.  Do the math: how many hours will you be there, how many representatives will you employ, how many contacts can each representative realistically make per hour.  Come up with a well-thought out number, and set that as a goal. 

Spend some time learning in depth about your competition that be present at the trade show.  We all know it’s a dog eat dog world, but that doesn’t mean you have to lash your vicious mandibles and talons at all who cross your path.  Still, it’s important to understand where your competition is at, what their goals may be, and where you can benefit from either working with or out-doing your competitors. 

Think about your budget too, and where you can maximize your money and minimize your expenditures where possible.  Fore example, you certainly want a nice looking trade show booth.  But that does not mean you need the most expensive one.  You can find cheaper cost booths online, or even used booths.  Spend some effort into minimizing costs so that money can be better budgeted toward aspects of your presentation where cost cutting measures are not available. 

You don’t want to bring a skeleton crew, but you also don’t need to waste money on bringing more people than you need.  Each additional member of your staff is another mouth to feed, body to house, and badge to obtain.  Instead of erring on the side of the more the merrier, make sure the employees you do bring to the trade show have had proper and extensive training.  It’s cheaper and more effective to get a few good, well-prepared members of your team to the show as opposed to the entire organization, sitting around union-labor style. 

The Deadline

The advantage of a trade show is it’s a specific time and place.  You can’t push it back another month or two.  You have a flight and you have to get on it and be prepared when you do.  When you book your company at a trade show, work back from that date and create goals based on one month away, two, three, even six months away.  A properly thought-out series of goals to achieve months in advance avoids the crunch time, and allows you to focus your time and money on maximizing your company gains at the show.