14 Tips for Your First Trade Show

If you’re familiar with trade shows, you know how valuable they can be to growing a business. Trade shows offer opportunities like increasing brand awareness, networking with prospective clients, and making sales.

One of the most well-known trade shows is the SXSW event hosted each year in Austin, Texas, by Southwest Airlines. Startups like Twitter and Foursquare gained early traction because of unique marketing tactics they used at the SXSW conference.

Trade shows are events where goods and services in a particular industry are exhibited. While more business is conducted online, trade shows offer the opportunity to find and develop new business relationships and discover new products. To find trade shows specific to your industry, you can visit Trade Show News Network and 10times, which provide lists of trade shows in different industries.

Exhibiting at trade shows requires planning. Preparation should begin at least two to three months in advance—don’t just show up and hope for the best. With a lot of competition, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of booths and attendees.

Knock your first trade show out of the park by following these tips:

1. Find out who will be attending

Attendee lists are available in advance for many trade shows. Research to figure out which contacts may be interested in your business, and send them a short introductory email.

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Reach out to let them know you’d love to meet them and encourage them to stop by your booth. But avoid spamming their inbox by selling your services right away—keep your first contact light and personal.

2. Bring your “A team”

The team you take to a trade show can have a huge impact on how the event goes for your company. You have two options: bring an in-house team or contract an event staffing agency with experience working trade shows. Whichever you decide, understand that the people working your booth will be the face of your business. It’s important to have a friendly, professional, motivated, and outgoing group to represent your company.

Keep specialization in mind when choosing your trade show staff. Bring team members that complement each other’s skills. A PR pro can handle inquiries from the press, a salesman can convert leads, a tech specialist can answer technical inquiries, and so on.

3. Prepare your staff

Be prepared for questions. Everyone staffing your booth will be asked specifics. This means every trade show team member should be an expert on your product and company. To make sure your team is ready, create a list of anticipated questions and role-play before the show.

It’s equally important to ask people who approach your booth questions. Your goal isn’t just to sell, but also to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Determine if what you offer is useful to them by qualifying them. Even if your product or service isn’t a good fit, they may know someone who can benefit from it.

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4. Be ready to give product demos

Display your product and be prepared to allow attendees to test it. People want to see, touch, or even taste something before making a purchase.

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