UnitedWare, LLC

10 Ways to Get the Most out of Trade Shows and Exhibits

Through my experience with trade shows, and having watched some exhibits attract unbelievable crowds while others get nothing but tumbleweeds blow by, I have learned a few things about what makes a good exhibit. In the technology business, what we have to show our potential customer is almost always on the computer. The trick is to showcase that product in an interesting and unique way, and that is not always an easy thing to do. Having a really creative display is often dependent on what trade show you are attending and has much to do with what you are displaying also, so I will leave that up to you. But there are some basic tips that everyone in this business can follow to get the most out of their trade show experience.

  1. Check the attendee list and know what competitors will be there. If you do not already know, research what angles your competitors are pushing and find the holes that your product or service fills.
  2. Have something eye-catching. Exhibits are usually packed pretty tightly together and the hardest part is just getting a prospect to notice your display. Most convention centers will allow you to rent a widescreen plasma monitor if you do not own one - spring for this extra cost to display your product or a slideshow of your services. The benefit will be double the traffic to your exhibit at least.
  3. Know the amount of traffic that you will be receiving and have the right amount of presenters to accommodate it. If you have very little traffic and too many presenters, your prospects will feel overwhelmed and intimidated by so many people engulfing them. If you have very large traffic and too few presenters, your prospects will not want to wait around for you to finish talking to someone else and they will move on, thus causing you to lose a potential sale.
  4. Know your audience and dress accordingly. While I usually like to go with business professional attire, I have made the mistake of over-dressing when the majority of the attendees were dressed casually. The end result was alienation of my exhibit from my customer prospects.
  5. The design of your exhibit is important, and you should take some time to plan it out. Keep in mind that most exhibits are pretty small, a 10'x10' space is pretty typical. Keep the central area of your exhibit open - the idea is you want to invite people into your space and make them feel welcome. A big 8' table sprawled out across the front of your exhibit just presents a barrier between yourself and your potential customer. A good idea is to have a couple computer "stations" set up on either side of your exhibit space. Each one could have a tall round table with a computer and a stool. The idea behind the tall table is to keep computer monitor displays as close to eye level as possible. Nobody wants to have to bend down to see your product demo, and the uncomfortable position will just make prospects leave your exhibit quicker.
  6. Have an interactive demo available at the exhibit for your prospects to use. By giving them something to do, it will give you more time to talk with them and discuss their needs. Keep in mind though that your prospect will most likely not feel comfortable just jumping into your demo. You will probably need to get the ball rolling by showing them a few simple things, then be sure to turn control over once they get a feel for your product.
  7. Keep in mind you are only going to have a maximum of about 5 minutes with your potential customer. You are not going to be able to show them all the interesting features of your product, so provide an online demo where they can log in and play around with the system once they get home. A simple one-page sheet with all demo and login information should be handed to your prospects once they express interest in your product.
  8. After giving your prospect some basic introductory information about your company and what you are selling them, you need to listen more than you speak. A sale is made in a conversation, not a presentation. Prospects listen to sales pitches only to filter out whether or not your product or service is at all useful to them. The actual buying decisions are made when you listen to their needs and tell them how your product or service will fill those needs.
  9. This one should go without saying - make it as easy as possible for your prospects to contact you after the show. Have business cards and brochures with contact information displayed on a table in plain view. If any prospects want to give you their business cards also, that is even better.
  10. Take full advantage of networking opportunities. Be sure to meet new people and make friends whenever you can during the course of the event. Remember that first a potential customer is buying you before they consider buying your product. A prospect is much more likely to stop by your exhibit if they have spoken with you previously.

If you follow these simple tips I have no doubt you will be the highlight of whatever trade show you are attending, or at least you will draw a good crowd. Above all, just remember to relax and have fun. A calm salesman puts your prospects at ease and makes them more comfortable and more likely to make buying decisions. Happy hunting!