The 5 Big Elements of Successful Trade Show Exhibiting

20x20 island double deck displays can help ensure successful trade show exhibiting!

20×20 island double deck trade show truss display

If you’re a big company in the construction industry, successful trade show exhibiting possibly means attending the “Big Five”, a series of construction trade fairs originating in Dubai, attracting close to 75,000 participants in 2015.

If you’re on a safari somewhere deep in the African savannah, you’ll probably want to see the “Big Five”: the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo. Whether you’re a big game hunter or a tourist with a camera, these are the animals most safari-goers have on their must-see list.

That “Big Five” made me realize there are also five major elements of successful trade show exhibiting. They’re the most critical parts of putting on a winning show. So, let’s take a few minutes to focus on these essential aspects:

1) Plan—And Plan Ahead:
We’ve probably all heard that old saying that “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s a clichéd statement, but it’s true. A trade show exhibit isn’t a situation where you can just “wing it.” There are simply too many moving parts to manage. And so many elements come from so many different partners. Bringing all that together requires planning and coordination. It also requires teamwork.

Even if you’re a one-person trade show and events department, you still need a team to pull off a successful show. You have teammates in the Sales department. You have teammates in the C suite. Your trade show exhibit company should be part of your team.

And you also have a team member in the show management office. They want you to succeed. That’s the only reason you’re going to come back next year. And they’ll do what they can to help, but only if you give them time to respond.

That brings us to planning ahead. Successful trade show exhibiting doesn’t happen in the week before the show opens. It needs to be strategized over for months.

  • You have to get buy-in from the members of your team.
  • You need the help of show management and their vendors.
  • You need your exhibit company to come through with changes to the trade show booth, new graphics, or a top-quality rented booth.
  • You or they need time to get your display out of storage.
  • And don’t forget shipping transit time; we see way too many exhibitors that waste lots of money on expedited shipping – and risk shipping problems that cause missing items – simply because they failed to plan.

So begin thinking about trade shows as a six, nine or even twelve-month plan. It should never be a few weeks of craziness just before it’s time to go.

2) Size Up The Opportunity:
Some exhibitors just don’t know what to expect when they’re planning for an upcoming trade show. There’s a lot they don’t know. For example, do they have the right size trade show exhibit? Do they know how many qualified prospects will be at the show? Do they know how much to invest in any particular show?

The answers to the first two questions should be discovered in the planning stages (another reason for planning ahead). But when you’re trying to achieve the optimum ROI, be sure the “I” you invest is appropriate to the situation. In other words, don’t over or under spend for what you need.

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3) Keep Your Eyes On The Ball:
You know you’re not going to get the opportunity to see every prospect that walks through the doors of the exhibit hall. And the truth is, you don’t want to. So focus your efforts and resources on those people who are likely to become your customers (and those who already are your customers).

Your pre-show efforts should be properly targeted, so attendees will already know they want to see your trade show booth before they get to the show. In order for them to find you, be sure your booth graphics speak strongly to the needs of this particular group. A sign that says “Free Money” will always attract a crowd, but you don’t want a crowd. You want the cream of the crop: your prospects.

4) Smarten Up Your Staff:
Whatever you need to do to make sure your trade show booth staffers know what they’re doing, do it. Maybe you can manage with some role-playing before the show. Perhaps a morning pep talk each day of the show will do the trick. You might even consider professional booth staff training.

But do what it takes. Your staffers are your front line, creating a lasting image of your company for every person they interact with. Make sure that image is a good one, or everything else you do at the show is almost useless.

Also be sure they know what they’re talking about. Nothing is as off-putting as a staffer who says, “I don’t know. Talk to someone else.”

5) Make Your Lead Count Count:
Be sure that every time your staffers engage with an attendee, they’re prepared to capture the exact information you need to move that relationship forward. Of course, not every interaction will involve a prospect. But every interaction has potential value. Your trade show booth staffers need to know what’s expected of them when it comes to turning over a qualified prospect or lead.

It’s still true that follow up doesn’t happen with the vast majority of leads. And most trade show exhibitors that do follow up do so with the same “warm personal touch” you’d get in a form letter from the IRS.

Don’t be one of those exhibitors. Make your leads count, and follow up with as much planning and preparation as you put into every other aspect of the show.

So those are my “big five” considerations for successful trade show exhibiting. Follow this advice and you’re sure to become a better, more effective trade show exhibitor. You’ll have more results from your show, with hotter leads to follow up on. And you’ll be ready to follow up because you planned ahead!

One more consideration for successful trade show exhibiting is a well-designed exhibit. Beyond attracting attention, it can help you tell your story efficiently and effectively. American Image Displays gives you a wide range of choices in the look and feel of the booth you want. We also offer a broad array of accessories for shining light on your products, displaying your literature or showcasing your graphics in new and innovative ways. To learn more, call us at (888) 977-8076 or email [email protected].

For more, check out our tips for trade show newbies or how to pick the right show.