I’m a big believer in trade shows. Even in today’s social-media-based, always-connected-via-mobile world, trade shows have a unique and useful place. I think they are the perfect setup: you put the buyers and the sellers of an industry in one big room, get the experts, analysts and thought leaders to speak in the smaller rooms and then have everyone party with old friends every night. What could be better than that?
Trade shows come in all shapes and sizes. Some you need to do on a budget. Some you have to do to enter a new geographic region or a new area of the industry. However, some are your signature shows; the shows where your industries fortunes are made or broken. For those “make it or break it” shows, you need to pull out all the stops. Here are some ideas to put the finishing touches on a killer show.
- Use a professional presenter. Trade show attendees are bombarded with sounds, visuals and motion as they walk around the show floor. Walk around a show sometime and notice that the best presenters have the biggest crowds. They have pleasant, confident voices and friendly, inviting faces with huge smiles. They have personality plus. That’s what they do for a living. They will also deliver the message consistently. Non-pros have few of these aspects that make all the difference.
- Dress everyone on the team the exact same. Now, I’m not talking about doing what most companies do, which is pass out some polo shirts and say “wear black pants with this.” You’ve seen booths where everyone is wearing the same polo with “khaki” slacks. There seem to be an infinite number of shades and styles of khaki and as a result, the team uniform effect is minimized. No, I’m talking about choosing both a branded shirt and a specific color and style of pants, so everyone really does look like they are a team. It’s not that easy to execute, but worth the effort.
- Hang the sign. Hanging signs are fairly inexpensive to buy and a small fortune to put up and take down at shows. Makes your whole presence look bigger. I’d consider them at every show and feel more urgency the closer to the back of the hall I am.
- Keep the booth spotless. Now here, I don’t mean “pretty clean,” I mean spotless. It’s often real hard to tell everyone that they can’t leave their coat, rolling laptop bag and bulging trade show stuff bag in the booth. It’s hardest to tell this to upper level execs. But it must be done. If you don’t have adequate storage space in the booth, warn attendees in advance (every time you communicate with them) and have alternative options (“the coat check will take your things, it’s near the North entrance”) for them.
I will admit, all of these, except number 4, cost money. However, at a signature show, your goal is often to look like an industry leader or an up and coming superstar company. Consider and try these items in that context. You will be glad you did!
How polished are your trade shows? Do you keep your booth spotless? What can be improved?
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