What tips do you have for running a booth at a tradeshow?


11

Eric Sink says that tradeshows are like sex: When it's good it's really really good, and when it's bad, it's still pretty good.

It's easy to waste a lot of time and money at tradeshows. But also they can be invaluable both for marketing and sales (outward) and market research (inward).

What are your tips for a successful booth? What should you do before and after?

Marketing Selling Tradeshow Tips

asked Dec 19 '09 at 11:05
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Jason
16,241 points

8 Answers


12

We've been attending trade shows for several years. When we started, the main trade show we attend was very targeted for our demographic (almost all attendees are potential customers). Over the years, however, that show has grown, and now only about 10% of the attendees are a good fit for our company.

When most attendees are potential customers, we found it effective to offer a give-away (a high-end iPod or iPhone) to those who would drop off a business card. This drove a lot of traffic to the booth, which was good - we would have good conversations with the folks stopping by the booth, and we generated good leads for follow-up after the show.

But when the attendee mix changed, we found that we were swamped with people signing up for the iPod that would never, ever buy our products. We wasted time trying to engage them in conversation, and it prevented us from talking to those who might really be interested in our products. The give-away was attracting the wrong kinds of people and it was overwhelming us.

The next year, we didn't do a give-away. We found that this eliminated the crowds and only people who were really interested would stop by the booth. Life was good again.

A few other points from my trade show experience:

  • We never give out brochures, even if someone asks for one. Most of these brochures never make it home with the prospect, so if someone really wants one, we ask for their address and then mail them one so that it's waiting for them when they get home.
  • A few years into it, rather than taking business cards as the way to sign up for the give-away, we started printing a little form to be filled out. It had the contact information for the person but also asked a few yes/no questions that were relevant to our product. We found these questions made it much easier to follow up with the person after we went home.
  • Our goal for manning the booth was simple: Have great conversations. We want to stand out as different from all the other booths that are "pitching" and "talking at" the attendees. When someone stops by our booth, we would never pitch them. Instead, we would as them questions. Attendees don't get a chance to talk much, so we tried to talk 30% of the time and listen 70% of the time. It's shocking, but this makes a big impression and is a big differentiator.
answered Dec 20 '09 at 12:55
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Michael Trafton
3,151 points

8

Just came back from one of those (actually it was our first).

So my humble list out of this experience:

  • Your booth should have something to attract people, monitors, gifts, freebies etc. If 3 people is around more will follow
  • If you have a product, put 1+ monitor(s) with live demo. Put some videos of your product and make them play during the whole event
  • Keep a track of all notes (it's also important to associate faces with business cards )
  • You need at least 2 people, more is better
  • Be prepared make demos, answer question especially if you are a new company/product
  • Hone your pitch, keep it short and get ready to repeat :) Take notes why your pitch didn't work, so you can fix it before your next event. What people keep asking after you finish your pitch, include those answers briefly into your pitch.
  • All your team should have their own business cards
  • When people around of your booth generally you need to start the conversation, don't be shy!
  • Take the most out of the event, pitch as much as possible, get people's business cards (it's an open invitation to give them a call/e-mail later on )
  • Also it's a perfect place for finding new partners, special business deals and meeting your next reseller. Use this opportunity, it's not only about getting new clients.
  • After the event use LinkedIn to keep in touch with your new contacts, or just send them an e-mail about how lovely it was meet with them.
  • Use a name tag, bonus for wearing the same t-shirt with your product/company's logo
answered Dec 20 '09 at 00:35
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The Dictator
2,305 points

8

A couple more points to add in to the mix from a number of tradeshows and conferences:

  1. Don't stand behind your table, stand in front of it
  2. Step out into the stream, don't wait for people to come into your booth
  3. Don't eat in your booth - have your lunch away from your area
  4. Get matching shirts/hats/swag so people know who is managing the booth
  5. Go through the exhibitors list, identify key potential partners/client and arrange meetings with them ahead of the tradeshow/conference
  6. If possible, repeat #5 for attendees
  7. Have a business card scanner. Digitize and follow up with people before the end of the event - once they get home, they are very likely to forget how interesting/valuable you and your product are
  8. Most importantly - Follow up, follow up, follow up. So many people fail to do this and miss key sales opportunities.
  9. Have fun! Seriously - people gravitate to the booth where peope are laughing - having free food helps.
answered Dec 20 '09 at 03:02
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Joseph Fung
1,542 points

7

Have free food. My mother's been running booths for her real estate magazine & vacation guide business for years, and the one thing that guarantees people stopping by is offering free food of some kind. Cookies work well.

Have them in the center of your booth, rather than at the edges, though, so people can't just grab and go. You want to get them in a spot where it's natural that you'd start a conversation with them; they're in the booth, rather than walking by it.

answered Dec 20 '09 at 02:33
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Jay Neely
6,050 points

3

Good free things to give away:

  • reusable bag with company logo on it
  • hat with company logo
  • t-Shirt with company logo
  • other visible item with company logo

You will have the whole expo asking for the location of your booth if you give away an item that is visible to other visitors. Everyone loves freebies especially if its not some cheap keyring or pen.

Also, try to arrange your booth to allow visitors to walk into the booth. If its just a table against the walkway, they will keep on walking. Have a table against the back wall with freebies so you can invite people in to get them while you talk to them.

answered Dec 31 '09 at 15:54
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Joe
272 points

3

I found this blog post discusses the important points.

Personally I've found that having a clear purpose and discussing it with everyone in the booth beforehand really helps.

answered Dec 19 '09 at 15:57
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Dane
1,866 points

1

Capture their attention.

Make them stop.

Tell them your story.

Leave an impression.

Get their info.

Followup, followup, followup.

Sell.

answered Jan 1 '10 at 14:03
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Arman Arami
399 points

1

Before:

  1. Determine your purpose for exhibiting.
  2. Determine your strategy.
  3. Figure out what show or conference to attend based on type and number of attendees and exhibit fee.
  4. Get your booth display items ordered (banners, handouts, equipment, drawing box and forms, etc)
  5. Arrange manpower needed.
  6. Before the event, set up your booth.

After:

  1. After the event, take down your booth.
  2. Get the drawing prizes delivered.
  3. Go through the contacts received and follow up as mentioned by Joseph. I call for appointments or send email newsletters.
  4. Determine whether this event is worthwhile attending again.

My experience:

• I prefer to do exhibits at conferences for my primary target market, libraries, as this is the most cost and time effective but I also exhibit at events with teachers for exposure.

• My purpose for exhibiting is to get names, contact info and permission to contact potential customers. (I do give short demos but many attendees are on time restrictions.)

• I have drawings at my table and the prizes are attractive logo bags filled with books. My drawing form asks for: name, school, phone, email, asks if they buy books, asks if ok to contact, asks if ok to send email newsletters on new products and specials. The prizes are also an indirect form of advertising as the bag has my company info and the books are samples of what I sell.

• My display consists of my company banner, display stands with books, PC (to demo audio e-books), the prominent drawing box, entry forms and pens around the table. I give out a one page list of the companies I represent and the buying terms if people want them and give out book catalogs only upon request. Like Michael, I found giving away catalogs to everyone in effective.

o A versatile attractive banner that can be used in the front of the exhibit table or hung as a back drop is good. o I leave the $1 Office Max pens out to complete drawing forms as any other good/attractive pen will walk away immediately. • For small (couple hundred people) events, I man the exhibit myself as I stand in front of my booth and ask people if they want to enter my drawing. But when I do have detailed discussions, the pens and drawing forms are set out around the entire exhibit so people can fill out the forms themselves. For large (thousands) events, I get help for the times when the exhibits will be packed. Since asking teachers to enter the drawing is easy to do, I had high school students help at the last teacher event and that worked out well.

answered Dec 22 '09 at 05:53
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Starr Ed
948 points

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