Become A More Effective Exhibitor: Top Ten Tips

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When you’re new to the trade show business, you’ve got a million questions. There’s a boatload of information to learn, with few good books on the subject. And everyone’s counting on you to make your exhibiting program work. That’s why we’ve boiled decades of experience in this field down to the top ten things you need to know to become become a more effective exhibitor. Follow these steps and you can pull off a successful show, while looking like a pro in the process.

1) Know who you’re trying to reach
Before your booth can do its job, spend some time defining your ideal customer. This may change from show to show, and that’s fine. Just know your audience before you create your messaging. You become a more effective exhibitor by deciding what benefits you can offer this “perfect prospect.” Then, make those benefits stand out in your messaging.

2) Know why you’re trying to reach them
There are more than a dozen valid reasons to exhibit at a trade show. You might be gathering leads. Showcasing a new product. Doing research on your market. Perhaps you want to gain media attention or build your brand. All of these—and more—are perfectly appropriate reasons to be an exhibitor.

But unless you’re clear on your reasons, your messaging won’t be clear. And you won’t achieve your goals. Do your homework first. When building your strategy, ask “Will this help us achieve our goals?” If not, change strategies.

3) Know how you’ll know if you reached them
Simply put, you’ve got to set goals. In order to become a more effective exhibitor, you need goals that are realistic, achievable, aligned with your strategy, and measurable. If your goal does not address all four of those things, it’s not a well-defined goal. Keep refining until you’ve got a set of goals that you can look at after the show and prove you were successful.

4) Know what you’re going to show
You won’t get any traction if you attempt to showcase your entire product line on the show floor. What’s new? What’s exciting? What product or service can you showcase so your prospects can interact with it?

Trade show attendees don’t want to just see your product; they want to experience it. Becoming a more effective exhibitor means finding a way for booth visitors to interact with your product in innovative, memorable ways.

5) Know what your exhibit needs to do
A successful exhibit isn’t just a backdrop for your product. It’s an invitation to attendees to involve themselves in your brand. From the layout to the messaging to the graphics, your booth should function on that level.

The same things that catch shoppers’ eyes in retail environments (color, focused light and movement) also work on the show floor. Try to weave them into your exhibit’s design.

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6) Know what you want to say
Your exhibit won’t be effective if your messaging isn’t clear. You’ve got about three seconds to capture an attendee’s interest. Then their eyes wander over to the next booth.

To be an effective exhibitor, don’t talk about you. Talk about your prospects. Your graphics should tell prospects what your product can do for them, as succinctly as possible. Remember, three seconds is all you’ve got.

7) Know how you’ll promote before, during and after the show
Becoming an effective exhibitor means your job starts long before opening day. You’ve got to decide how you’ll get your message out weeks before the show. Start by simply inviting your most valuable prospects and current customers to visit your exhibit.

During the event, you’ll use social media and other techniques to promote your presence at the show each day. And you’ll continue your promotional efforts after the show, to keep your company top-of-mind. That way, prospects will remember you when your sales team starts following up.

8) Make sure your team knows how to work the booth
I’ve spoken many times about the value of booth staff training. And now the statistics back me up. Studies have shown that a well-trained booth staff can double the amount of qualified leads you collect during a show. It costs a fraction of your budget to train them. And the benefits are tremendous.

You’ve been doing your own homework to become a more effective exhibitor. Your staff needs similar preparation before the show opens.

9) Know how to create a solid lead
It may sound silly, but gathering business cards isn’t the same as getting qualified leads. Talk with your sales team about what information they’ll need for effective follow-up. Then design a form that collects that data.

Some of the relevant points may include: full contact information (address, phone, email), area of interest, who they’re currently buying from, and what they’d need to consider a change of vendors. It’s also helpful to know what role the contact plays in the purchasing process and what their time-frame is for making a purchase.

10) Know how to follow up
To be a more effective exhibitor, you’ve got to have your follow-up process in place before the show begins. That way, you can actually accomplish the follow-up within 48 hours—if not sooner. Doing so makes you stand out among the other exhibitors. It also gives you a competitive advantage by being the first vendor to make contact.

Over and over, trade show industry surveys show that up to 80% of trade show leads receive no follow-up at all! Don’t be one of those people. Do it right. Do it well. Do it fast. That’s how to become a more effective exhibitor.

Your company makes a great product or provides a valuable service. And you’re doing an excellent job to become a more effective exhibitor. Now that you are, help your company put its best foot forward with an exhibit from American Image Displays. We represent almost every major manufacturer of displays, worldwide. And whether you’re looking for a tabletop, a portable display or a modular 10×10 (or larger) booth, we can help you tell your story in a memorable way. To learn more, call (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected]

For more, check out how to be a stand out exhibitor or how to improve exhibitor retention.