Trade Show Preparation: Do's and Don'ts for the Big Day

Sarah Leung
February 17, 2015

Trade shows. Whether you love them or hate them, they’re necessary additions to many wholesale business calendars. They offer an opportunity for you to showcase your products, talk face-to-face with prospects and customers, and bring your brand to life. In your trade show preparation, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind for success.

Trade Show Preparation: Do's

Know exactly what you want to accomplish:

What are your main goals for this show? Are you looking to find new customers and start the relationship-building process or concentrate on making actual sales? Are you looking to scope out the competition, build brand awareness, or underscore your market leadership? Once you’ve laid out your objectives for the show, you’ll know how to properly plan.

Get a good spot:

Where your booth is located in the exhibit hall has a lot to do with the kind of foot traffic you’ll get. Sign up for the show early to try and get a placement at the front of the hall, or around the perimeter.

Be active:

That is to say, don’t sit down behind a table at your booth. Think about the costs associated with sending you to that trade show, and make every minute count. Get to the edges of your booth, facing the aisles, and look out for approaching prospects.

Smile and be sure to wear a name tag or badge:

Remember, it’s all about being approachable. Putting something like, “ask me a question” on your name badge can also go a long way.

Refer to booth visitors by name if possible:

When with a prospect, quickly introduce yourself and refer to them by name if they’re wearing a name tag. If not, get their name before moving into your conversation. This establishes a connection and makes your conversation more memorable. There’s no sweeter sound to their ears than the sound of their own name.

Ask specific qualifying questions:

You want to try to understand what the prospects goals are, figure out who the decision-maker is in their company, find out more about their time frame, etc. Note down what they tell you so that you can jog their memory when you follow up after the show.

Have some kind of giveaway:

You want to attract people to your booth with awesome free stuff. Have some kind of giveaway available, like product samples or branded merchandise. This will also help them remember you after the show.

Collect as many contacts as you can:

Don’t be shy about asking for business cards. If you don’t get the contact information for the person you spoke with, you’re wasting your time.

Trade Show Preparation: Don’ts

Start a conversation without finding out who you’re talking to:

Always find out a person’s name, role in their company, and reason for being at the show before you launch into a conversation. Not only will this help you cater to their needs better, it will also prevent you from revealing too much about your business to someone who might actually be with the competition.

Forget to watch your body language:

Body language is such an important element to how you interact with prospects and customers at trade shows. You want to approach trade show attendees and be as open and inviting as you can. Don’t cross your arms or look away while the prospect is talking. Don’t spend your time clustered with the rest of your sales team, which sends the message that you’re not available to talk. All your concentration should be on the people walking past the booth.

Bad mouth the competition:

Doing this is off-putting. By spending time trying to convince a prospect of your competitors’ inferiority, you’re actually projecting insecurity on your part. Talk about your own products and why they’re great, not the competition.

Overwhelm trade show attendees with too many print materials:

You may be planning on preparing some brochures, fliers, or booklets to hand out at your next trade show. Make sure that whatever you plan to give out is high-impact, and don’t print too many different assets. This is not only expensive, it will also overwhelm and confuse prospects who, let’s face it, will probably throw your three different fliers in the garbage.

Use inside lingo or terminology that prospects may not understand:

If within your company, you tend to use certain words, acronyms, or other jargon to describe your products that trade show attendees might not know of, don’t use them.

Eat, drink, or do anything in the booth that could be construed as unprofessional:

Take your mealtimes in shifts with fellow booth staff. Eating a sandwich or drinking a soda in your booth looks decidedly unprofessional, and will prevent people from coming over. Moreover, your lunch can stink up the booth area, and spilled drinks can cause damage.

Come to the show without a plan to follow up with leads later:

Avoid letting your post-show gameplan become disorganized and disjointed. Have your plan in mind at the beginning of the show, so you know what kind of contact information you need to gather, what talking points you’d like to remind prospects of later, etc.

Stay out late at night:

While it may be tempting to let loose after a long day of exhibiting, you need to be on your A-game throughout and after the show, especially if it’s several days long. The last thing you’d want to do is get on the trade show floor on your second day tired or sick. This could lead to lost business or, at worst, the loss of your job.   Do you have other Trade Show Do’s and Don’ts for trade show season? Let us know in the comments.