There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into tradeshows, and it isn’t just what you see in the exhibit hall. Behind every exhibit are months of pre-planning, and post-show reflections. A successful tradeshow is the outcome of good planning and the right preparations. And as cheesy as it might sound, you really do get out of a tradeshow what you put in.
Research the individuals who will be attending. Who are they, and what might they be looking for while there? Learning who is attending can also help you plan out who you will talk to. If you see someone that you have either done business with in the past or someone you’ve had conversations with in the past and want to reconnect, reach out and see about setting up meetings with them.
In addition, create goals for the tradeshow, both personal and business, and create a plan of action on how you can achieve those goals. By setting your expectations realistically for the event, and how you can best use your time and resources, you’ll be able to achieve or exceed those goals.
If your company has a booth location, schedule a time for your team to do a test setup before shipping the items to the tradeshow. Ensure everything works the way it should, and that nothing is broken or missing pieces. It makes it easier on yourself and your team if you know how to set up your booth before you get to the tradeshow floor. You might only get a few hours or less of set-up time, so it’s best to use the time wisely. The more time you have can be used for any last-minute emergencies that might pop up.
Alongside ensuring your booth setup is good to go, print materials and handouts are key in sharing your company’s offerings with potential customers. If you think you have enough print materials, you probably don’t have enough! It’s always better to have over-estimated how many print materials to send than not having enough. The worst thing that can happen to you is someone wants information about you, or your company, and you don’t have any more print materials to hand out. If this does ever happen, and it might, the best course of action is to take their contact information down and send them a digital version of your materials.
Be sure to bring materials to market yourself and the business you represent, including business cards. You are there to make connections. The people you meet may end up being a very useful resource down the road. So, bring a decent-sized stack of your business cards with you so that you can share your information with people.
Networking and making connections are key components of tradeshows. Even if there are no formal networking opportunities, speaking sessions, cocktail hours, parties and other events associated with the tradeshow are a great way to meet other people in your industry. While you’re networking, it is also a good idea to have some way to organize business cards and contacts that you made during the event. Some shows have an event-specific app with contact info for all the confirmed attendees, but sometimes you will need to store a contact on your own. This may be as simple as pen and paper, but some apps allow you to scan business cards and record their contact info and any notes in one place. You can also jot notes down on any business cards you collect from people, to help personalize your follow-up when back in the office.
These are just some of the things you can do pre-show to prepare yourself. There is a lot more on the technical side of tradeshows that is equally important. But these are great starting points to keep in mind regardless if you are going to your first tradeshow or your 500th.