Maximum Effort: How to Properly Work a Trade Show

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A successful trade show experience can be a major source of leads…if done correctly. However, many people who sign up for trade shows struggle to see a measurable, monetary return from their investment.

While exhibiting at and attending a trade show is not an exact science, there are good habits that most exhibitors and experienced attendees will agree are vital to success.

Here are 7 tips for how to properly exhibit at a trade show.

1. Proper Lighting & Décor

An eye-catching booth is vital for success at a trade show. The environment of a trade show is a very distracting, full of sounds and sights competing for attention.

To ensure your booth has the best chance of catching people’s attention, get canvas prints with good graphics that display your company. Shine lights on those prints so they stand out.

2. Stay in Budget

It’s easy to overspend on a trade show, so you need to know your budget and stay within it. For example, at a trade show I attended recently there was a food vendor giving away hamburger sliders to everyone that lined up. Over the course of a 7-hour trade show they probably gave out $1,000 worth of ground beef, buns and various condiments, and used higher-than-normal levels of electricity for their ovens which would have added another significant cost to their investment.

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Then there are also things like handouts, canvas prints, décor, transport costs, extra food costs, setup costs, and all the labor you must pay your employees. Although trade shows can result in future business, it can get expensive quickly.

3. Branded Clothing

If you want a higher response rate, you should get custom-printed T-shirts and décor that clearly state what company you work for and what you sell. This will also help you in social situations where you may be taking a break or just walking around and someone notices your shirt and strikes up a conversation with you. These chance encounters are what being at a trade show is all about. You’re trying to stir up conversations with as many people as possible, and the branded T-shirt is a wonderful way to facilitate this process.

4. Make Your Company Logo & Value Offer Clear

What you sell should be understood easily just from looking at your booth. If you have a special offer (discount, free gift), it should be explainable in one to two sentences so you can immediately divert traffic into giving you their contact information.

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Remember that at a trade show your main objective is to gather contact information for future follow up. If you can get a firm commitment from someone to buy at that moment, that’s a nice bonus but it’s not the main objective. To ensure the highest possible chance you’ll reach this goal, be clear about what you’re offering, and make it simple to obtain contact information for all leads.

5. Work the Floor

Don’t wait for people to come to you—go to them. You should be engaging anywhere from 80 to 100 percent of all people that walk past your booth in conversation to see if they’re in the market for what you’re selling. Poor exhibitors make the mistake of waiting for people to walk up to their booth. They miss out on the people who are distracted while walking by their booth or too shy to engage vendors in conversation about their services.

At the last trade show I worked, the exhibitor across from mine spent most of their time sitting at their booth, talking to no one, glued to their phone, texting or surfing the web. Don’t be that person! As much as a third of all your walk-by traffic has the potential to be converted into a lead. To achieve this rate of success you must talk to as many people as possible in the short time you have. Get your hustle on!

6. Prepare Your Script

You must know in advance what phrases you’re going to use to engage people and turn them on to your offer. If you’re doing a trade show right, you’ll feel like you’ve repeated the same lines repeatedly for hours on end. Exhibitors get poor results when they just wing it and say something different to each person they come across.

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To know if your approach is effective, you need to stick with one set of lines and then refine it based on the feedback you receive. Know your script and stick to it. Change it only when you notice something isn’t working.

7. Follow Up with ALL Leads

You must have a follow-up system ready to consistently communicate with all the leads obtained from the trade show. Most of the sales that occur from trade shows happens in the future. You’ll only get the business if you take active steps to keep your marketing message in front of leads over time.

An email newsletter works well to achieve this objective.  Ensure you’re publishing content that will be of interest and send it to them every month like clockwork. You can also squeeze more response by executing a direct mail and telemarketing campaign to follow up with each lead to see where they are in the buying cycle. Ensuring effective follow-up occurs after each trade show will maximize your return.

Exhibiting at or attending this year’s Nightclub & Bar Show? The convention and trade show website has all the information you need to maximize your experience, like the keynote, workshop and session schedule and exhibitor list and floorplan. You can also learn more about Bar Recscue Happy Hour with Jon Taffer, Bourbon is My Boyfriend hosted by Megan Breier and sponsored by Beam Suntory, Hennessy Beverage Education & Tasting, and more nightlife and experiential events. If you haven’t grabbed your tickets yet, register now!

Kevin is an operations consultant with over a decade of experience working directly with bar, restaurant and nightclub owners on all points of the spectrum: from family-owned single bar operations to large companies with locations on an international scale. Kevin works with them all and understands the unique challenges each kind of company faces.

He is the author of a book entitled Night Club Marketing Systems – How to Get Customers for Your Bar. He is also a regular writer for Nightclub & Bar, providing information high-level operators seek to get the extra edge in their marketing, sales and operations.

He continues to write today, providing specialized information directly to nightclub, bar and restaurant owners from his workshops, newsletters and magazine articles. He is also active in the field, operating an inventory auditing practice with Sculpture Hospitality.

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