Planning an exhibit for your first trade show? It’s a lot of work but can be so rewarding! Whether you’re a new startup company or launching a new product for a larger company, that first show carries huge potential. Do you know how to reach it?
We’ve put together a list of tips for first-time exhibitors, so you can get the most ROI for your efforts.
Step 1: Planning and Preparation
There’s a lot to do, and it’s easy to overlook essential details on your first time out! Make sure you have these aspects covered, so you’re a success.
Complete Registration Early
Many shows offer early-bird discounts for people who register before a certain date. This can free up room in your budget and help you get started with planning early on. We recommend setting goals about 12 months out.
Meet Your Deadlines
Once you’ve registered for the event, find out what other deadlines apply. This might include registration and discounts for services and special events, and other goodies that can improve your experience.
Stay up-to-date with show communications. That means providing the event with an email address you regularly check. Don’t think that because the trade show isn’t for a few months or a year you can leave emails unread. They might contain vital information from trade show coordinators.
Check Out the Attendee List
The attendee list can be a useful tool for scoping out your competition before the show. It can also help you decide which companies to focus on for sales and networking.
Pro Tip: Many trade show veterans reach out to attendees before the event, but do this with caution to avoid spamming your targets. Keep messages short, and customize them to their recipients.
Advertise Your Booth
When you’re talking about the upcoming show on social media or in blog content or emails, include your booth number and location. This is a crucial part of your pre-show marketing strategy. If you want people to seek you out at the event, make it easy for them to find you.
Train Your Staff
If it’s your first time exhibiting, it might be your booth staff’s first time too. Make sure they know what’s expected of them by giving them defined roles and tasks. Train them before the show—not during it—so they have plenty of time to practice their sales skills.
If you’re not sure how big your team should be, think about it like this: No one should ever work the booth alone, and everyone should get regular breaks. For your first show, this usually means bringing at least two people with you.
Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
You’ll be busy at the show, even as a first-time exhibitor, and so will your staff. You won’t get to spend much time with each person you meet, so you need to be able to tell them what your brand is all about in just two or three sentences.
Prepare for Common Problems
As you attend more shows, you’ll need a trade show emergency kit, full of items to help you solve problems that sometimes come up. Especially for your first trade show, bring:
- Backup batteries for electronic devices
- Spare cables
- Snacks for you and your staff
- Duct tape
Step 2: Set Up Your Exhibit for Success
The exhibit itself, and the space you rent at the show, will eat up most of your trade show budget, so it’s important to get the setup right.
Set Your Goals
What are your goals for the event? Are you focused on:
- Leads or sales?
- A product launch?
- Brand recognition?
- Industry networking?
Whatever your goals are, your booth should be set up to help you achieve them.
Build a Budget
Trade shows can get expensive. If you’re not aware of the potential for hidden or unexpected costs, it’s easy to spend much more than you planned. You might be prepared for shipping costs, but do you know about drayage?
Prevent this problem by doing your research before the event. Then create a budget that plans for surprise expenses, so you’re not caught off-guard.
Pick a Booth Space
Booth spaces come in different sizes at most shows. For your first time out, rent the smallest space. At this show you’ll learn a lot about what kind of booth layout and structure works best for your business. You may end up changing elements between your first show and your second. Keeping the space small helps keep the show affordable while you’re in learning mode.
Find out as much as you can about the space you rent. Along with its dimensions, it’s also helpful to know where it’s located in the building and what kind of access you have to electricity, lighting, and Wi-Fi.
Design the Booth
When it comes to the exhibit itself, it’s best to keep it simple for the first show. This way you can avoid budget-busting mistakes until you have a little experience under your belt. Once you know more about what you’ll need for future shows, you can start to plan for booth purchases.
Consider renting – At the first show, you can keep costs down by renting a trade show booth. It probably doesn’t make sense to buy an exhibit until you know what your booth needs are. A rental is a convenient option, too, because you won’t have to deal with transportation and other issues.
Open it up – An open booth design feels more welcoming and is a good bet for most trade show goals. Try to avoid tables or counters that block views or prevent visitors from easily entering the booth.
Secure Your Expensive Items – Make sure that tech items, products, and other valuables are well-secured. Aim for a booth that includes one or more lockable kiosks or cabinets, so you can store these items safely after-hours.
Step 3: Enjoy the Show!
Take Care of Yourself (and Your Staff)
Trade shows are physically and mentally taxing. During the show, make sure you and your staff stay hydrated, don’t skip meals, and get plenty of sleep. Take short breaks throughout each day, not just for networking, but to keep you fresh for booth duty.
Dress Comfortably, but Professionally
Most exhibitors and attendees prefer casual business-wear. This ensures you look professional and allows you some degree of comfort too. Comfortable shoes are a must. You’ll be on your feet a lot, so it’s best to avoid heels and constricting footwear.
Use Tech to Stay Organized (but Keep a Pen on Hand Too)
Staying organized at shows is much easier than it used to be, now that you don’t need to rely on paper for taking notes and lead information. Keep your phone or tablet with you at all times, so you can jot things down wherever you happen to be. Apps like Evernote are great for this, and if there’s an event app available, be sure to check it out. You might even be able to use it for networking with attendees.
Keep a pen handy, too, along with plenty of your own business cards. Sometimes you’ll want to write on the card before you hand it over, and your phone can’t help with that!
Keep an Eye on Social Media
Once you’re at the show, it’s important to stay active and engaged with what’s going on. Make sure to follow the show’s own social media accounts and use their hashtags to keep yourself in relevant conversations.
Make Time for Networking
Your first trade show is going to be busy and overwhelming, but set time aside for networking. As a first-timer, you can learn a lot just by talking to your booth neighbors. Schedule time to visit:
- Potential suppliers
You’ll likely learn a lot about your industry, as well as trade shows in general.
Set Yourself Up for Success
With so much to think about, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re getting ready for that first show. Remember to keep it simple whenever you can, and ensure your success with great planning, optimal organization, and a
You don’t have to do it alone. A professional exhibit company like ProExhibits can help you understand what you need in order to accomplish your goals.