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Trade Show Prep: 5 Preparation Tips for Your First Event

The right trade show can put you in front of prospective customers, close deals with new clients and supercharge your business’s growth. But are you ready for it?

Preparing for a trade show can be a stressful process. There’s developing your booth, signing up for the event, training your sales team, rehearsing (and re-rehearsing) your product demos, booking transport and accommodation, as well as a variety of other tasks.

In short, there’s a lot to do. Luckily, you can make the process simpler and more manageable by putting a few tips, techniques and tactics — five of which we’ve listed below — into action.

Understand why you’re exhibiting

One of the most common trade show mistakes is participating in a trade show without any clear goal. Just like you need objectives to successfully grow your business, you need clear goals to get the most out of a trade show.

The first step in your trade show preparation process should be setting clear, measurable and achievable goals. If you’re aiming to sell products, set a revenue target. If you’re hoping to get new leads, set a milestone at which you’ll consider the event a success.

Without goals, not only is it difficult to prepare for the trade show — it’s even harder to track your progress during the event.

Create a trade show checklist

Just like packing for a vacation becomes easier with a packing list, preparing for a trade show become much easier to manage when you have a list of all of your “must do” tasks.

There are several ways to prepare your trade show checklist. The easiest way is to print out an existing list (there are several available online, such as this one from TradeShowBuddy and this one from Entrepreneur), then tailor it to your specific needs.

Alternatively, you can create your own checklist. It’s usually best to choose a pre-made list for your first event since it’s more likely to include things you could otherwise forget during your event preparation.

Choose the right location

The easier you register for the event, the less you’ll likely spend on your event registration and rental costs. Registering early also gives you another significant advantage — you’re freer to choose your location on the exhibition floor.

While there’s no one “ideal” location for your trade show booth, most businesses will aim for the most frequently visited areas of the exhibition floor, such as the areas around entrances, exits or catering areas.

It can also pay to choose a location close to a large exhibitor, as their foot traffic can often stop by your booth as a result of its proximity.

Study your competition

If you’re exhibiting at a major trade show, it’s very unlikely you’ll be doing so without at least a little competition. Luckily, you can use competitors to your advantage by studying and learning from their previous exhibits.

Before you start designing your trade show booth, spend a few hours studying the booths your competitors used at previous events. Look for standout features that you can adapt and improve on for your own custom exhibit displays.

This way, you can prepare an eye-catching booth that not only equals the exhibits of your major competitors but builds on their weak points for even better results.

Set a clear, firm budget

A successful trade show booth can produce an incredible return on investment for your business, but it’s rarely a cheap process. From exhibition fees to booth rental, giveaways and other expenses, exhibiting at a trade show can require a significant budget.

Because of this, it’s important to set a clear budget before you start preparing for the event. It’s also important to set limits on spending, as things like free giveaways and promotions can often increase significantly in cost if you allow them to.

Remember, trade shows are all about return on investment. Keep your budget under control, set clear goals and have a clear vision for your results and you’ll earn a significant ROI, all without any budget-related problems.

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