Trade shows – what to expect

January is here, and that means many organizations are beginning to sponsor conferences for their members. This also means you may have an opportunity to work at a trade show by representing your company at an exhibit booth.

I’ve attended more than 20 trade shows in different industries. The trade shows have ranged between 500 to 10,000 attendees. The number of exhibitors has ranged between 15 to 200 plus. But no matter how large or how many attendees are at the show, there are some common things you are expected to do or prepare for.

Here they are –

1). You are expected to arrive at least one day early to set up a booth. This is common sense. With high flight delays these days, it’s a given that you arrive a day early to set things up. Most exhibit sponsors have strict time limits as to when you must arrive, set up your booth and then leave the exhibit hall. You are also expected to pack up and leave at a certain time. If you pack up too early, you could be penalized by the exhibit sponsor. You also may not be allowed to attend the event next year.

2). Expect to be on your feet most of the day. While you may have short breaks and even grab a little lunch, if you want to gather some good leads, and meet and greet your customers, you are expected to work the booth hard. (Suggestion – wear comfortable shoes).

3). Most conference sponsors will have lunch or social gathering events in the exhibit hall to attract walk-through traffic. There are pros and cons to this. While you may get some good leads, chances are you are going to deal with attendees with food their mouths who will only give your presentation just scant attention. Don’t be offended. It happens. (BTW, don’t eat food at the booth. That’s rude).

4). You are dealing with two types of attendees. First, are the serious prospects who want to hear about your solution to their problem, and second is sovereign hunters who want to collect bags of swag for their kids or co-workers. As you work more trade shows, you will begin to develop an eye on who’s serious and not serious. (Suggestion – always a good idea to collect some swag for your co-workers who couldn’t attend the show. Shows goodwill on your part).

5). Social Network opportunities are commonplace at most shows. Some companies will rent a hospitality suite or area for one night or throughout the show. But most of the time, people will gather at the local watering hole or restaurant. It’s a great way to meet customers and prospects in a more intimate setting without all the hustle and bustle of a trade show floor. Have a drink, talk, exchange business cards, and hopefully develop some deals in the process. (Suggestion – just watch how much you drink. Word of mouth spreads very easily in most industries).

If you have a chance to attend a trade show this year, good luck to you! I wish you much success.

What we all want at trade shows - prospects coming to our booth!

What we all want at trade shows – prospects coming to our booth!

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Foter / CC BY-SA

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