How to Prepare Well for a Forthcoming Trade Show or Expo

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Whether this is your company’s first trade show or expo or you’re a seasoned pro at them, perhaps your staff isn’t. Not everyone has worked at a company that had a stand at a trade show or expo before. It helps everyone to draw up a preparation list of tasks to perform and things to be aware of. This way they can be better prepared before they go onto the trade show floor.

Here are some tips on how your company and its staff can best prepare for the trade show.

Planning Well Ahead of Time

If you’re someone who tends to run your business by the seat of your pants with everyone rushing around like mad things, then you will find the approach ineffective for a trade show. In fact, it will likely spell disaster. That’s because the planning stage and the time it takes to order all the supplies, custom designs, and other necessary items, has a typical lead time of months, not week or days.

Trying to do everything as a rush job at the last minute will not only drive your suppliers, designers, and staff completely up the wall but lead to a very rush, unprofessional presentation because no one had time to do their best work for you.

Aim to start planning at least a half year ahead of the exhibition or tradeshow date. Some companies even take a full year to plan; they start planning for the following year’s show immediately after the last one ended. They take key lessons learned and immediately apply changes to redirect how they’ll prepare better for the following year. This, at times, is actually easier than not doing anything for half a year and then trying to jump back into it. It’s best to start work on the next one when the experience of the last one is still fresh. You’ll miss fewer things that way.

Planning in advance means that you have time to try out different trade stand display concepts and final designs before deciding on the right one. You don’t have to take the first choice because you’re running out of time. The objective of being an exhibitor at the show can be set in advance and everything about the preparation is focused on achieving this objective. When putting through a rush job, none of this careful preparation is possible.

Know Your Audience

Establish a list of the types of customers that you have attending that specific trade show. Create a persona for each person and build it out as best as you can. Understand what the goals or objectives of each type of buyer are when attending the trade show. It isn’t cheap to get in, so why are they there? Who paid for their ticket? What are they looking to achieve? How can the staff at the booth help them to satisfy these goals and objectives?

Once you know what the different buyers are looking for, you can begin to think about concepts for what attracts them. Different marketing material, trade show stand design and aesthetics are likely to catch their eye. Also, consider what demographic and customer type the company is seeing growth from or wishes to gain more attention with. Does this match up with any of these imagined personas and what can the company do to capture their interest?

Preparing Staff for Different Responsibilities

As the owner or senior manager in the business, understand that you cannot focus both on running the business and leading at the trade show. The show will be situated a distance from the office (and perhaps in a different city or county entirely), making it impractical to try to hop between one place and another. It’s better to plan to simply be fully focused on the trade show and let another person manage the company or your department while you’re outside the office. Trying to multi-task here just never works well and leads to staff exhaustion.

Consider what roles different people will play at the trade show stand. Which people in different departments are best suited to a customer-facing role? Perhaps, they’re lacking in confidence and are too nervous to talk directly with members of the public or people from other businesses. It may certainly be worthwhile having them attend the show, but in an assistant or supportive role to help them through their social anxiety until a later year when perhaps they can take more of a leading role.

Once the right people have been assigned roles, create a training plan for each role. For instance, if one role is a customer-facing, sales-oriented role, does anyone selected have experience in their current job or previous jobs performing this function? Would they benefit from taking a sales course to give them practical training on how it’s done? Should they be reading books on how to be a more effective salesperson?

Certainly, role-playing is going to be useful to get different members of the team used to dealing with strangers.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that everyone is a natural at it if they’ve never worked in sales before or only deal with people on the telephone. It doesn’t feel natural to everyone. Learning and practicing ahead of time prevents them from falling apart when talking to real people at the trade show. If necessary, recruit temporary sales staff to augment the people at the stand to help or to perform in-office training as the date draws near.

Trade Booth Design Considerations

Consider the size of the trade booth in terms of its physicality and compared to other booths nearby. Look at other exhibitors nearby and what their line of business is. Will you be offering similar goods or something completely unrelated?

Most trade show stands are quite small and don’t fit that many people inside. This has a bearing on how the booth should be designed to avoid it looking and feeling closeted and unwelcoming. When the space is smaller, fewer staff can be present out front without crowding out the booth completely.

Look at the location compared to where it is inside the location. Is it near the big competitors, just at the entrance or hidden all the way in the back? Is the lighting expected to be good or low and need improvement with lights positioned inside the booth? Decide what your strategy should be based on the position and whether you’re working from a disadvantage that you have to navigate around somehow.

Determine where equipment will be situated. Ensure there’s enough desk space, seating, and electrical outlets. You’ll need more extension cords than you think and longer ones than you expect.

The Attraction Factor

What will it be about the trade show stand, it’s design and arrangement, and the staff that will help bring people inside instead of them hesitating outside or walking past? What will make them want to walk inside to look at product samples or talk to staff?

Develop a realistic plan for why customers will visit and what will make them do so. Because if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to struggle massively.

Uniforms and IDs

Decide how staff will be dressed for each day of the trade show. You can go with a business suit and a hanging lanyard from The Lanyards Factory if you want it to be formal. However, many businesses have staff wearing a brighter colored polo shirt with a lanyard hanging around their neck to identify them, the company’s logo embroidered on each shirt, and dark-colored pants or a skirt, as appropriate.

With the polo shirt, it’s unisex and smart enough to look professional. Trade shows have many people attending and even with powerful air conditioning, they tend to heat up as the day rolls on. It can get uncomfortable for men to be wearing a buttoned-up dress shirt and tie. Being on your feet most of the day actively meeting people, shaking hands and moving around gets tiring too. With the ladies, consider whether wearing flats makes more sense than heels because your feet will get tired quickly too.

Breaktimes-a-Plenty

It will surprise you how quickly people get tired when at a trade show. It’s one thing to walk around, look around casually and talk to a few people at the stands, but quite another to be working there. Representing the company, out front available to be approached over long periods of time is tough. Doing it with a smile for each approaching visitor is even harder. It’s exhausting to be friendly on purpose!

You will need to plan for all staff to take regular breaks. Not just to run to the washroom or to get a lunch break, but also to rest. Bear in mind that if they’re inside the stand, even sitting down, attendees will be either disappointed or annoyed if they cannot approach them to ask a question. The only way they can really get away and take a rest is when they leave the stand to get away.

When you plan thoroughly for company’s next trade show, you’re likely to get a profitable result. Don’t make the mistake of leaving it too late to plan or act.

 

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