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Trade Show Exhibitors To-Do list

Posted by Justin Bates on September 14, 2016 - 12:23 PM
Men at trade show

Helpful tips for trade show exhibitors

If you’ve spent any time or money getting ready for a trade show, you no doubt want to get the most out of the experience. Trade shows are a great opportunity for your business to shine and can offer a chance to tout your products and services to the public while meeting face-to-face with potential customers. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the moment and not let a good business opportunity slip away. We've compiled a list of tips designed to help make your next trade show a success.

Before the show

A lot of factors go into getting ready for a trade show. Being prepared and organized helps everything run smoothly. Here are some things to keep in mind before you head to a show:

  • Plan for shipping your booth. Selecting a reliable carrier that is experienced and proven in the trade show market is important. Contact the show’s official carrier, or the carrier you prefer, and ask for assistance in getting your booth delivered to the show. This is also a good time to schedule your outbound shipment to either move your items to the next show or back home. To prepare for shipping, make sure your booth and all of its contents are packaged properly and labeled correctly. Read more about planning and shipping your trade show booth here.
  • Design your booth.Best practices say to keep it simple, attractive and inviting — with a quick hook to draw the show-goers’ interest immediately. For immediate engagement, create a look that’s eye-catching, but not cluttered or overbearing.
  • Create a marketing plan.Determine the best way to market your services to potential clients and make sure your staff is familiar with the strategy. Some people may be trained trade show experts while others may be new to the game. It’s almost always beneficial to conduct a training session ahead of time to discuss the plan and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Compile marketing materials.Make sure you have marketing collateral like fliers and promotional items available to hand out to potential customers. This works to keep your business on their mind after they leave the show. If you plan to order new marketing materials or promotional items, make sure to give yourself enough lead time to have them delivered in plenty of time for the show.
  • Set up a booth schedule.Besides the fact that most shows won’t allow the booth to be unattended during the show, it’s important to always have someone on the floor to answer questions and network. Creating a schedule helps ensure someone is always there when you need them. Don’t forget to leave time for each person to take a break — standing all day on the showroom floor can get tiring (and sore/tired feet are a real thing for trade show exhibitors).

*NoteYou have two options for shipping your trade show booth: advance warehousing or direct to show. With advance warehousing, materials are shipped to a local warehouse where they’re held until show time. Generally, this method is considered the most convenient — you can ship ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about hitting a specific delivery window, and materials normally arrive in your booth space much faster (which can be a big deal on setup day). If you’re short on time, direct to show may be the better option. This method sometimes costs slightly less due to lower material handling costs. Just be aware that most shows have specific delivery day and time requirements with direct-to-show delivery. If your shipment arrives earlier or later than move-in time, you could incur additional charges. And, shipping charges for guaranteed delivery are normally higher if you have a targeted move-in time. It’s also important to note that your shipment will be one of many arriving at the same time, so you may have to wait longer for delivery to your booth on setup day, which could mean overtime charges from the Install and Dismantle team.   

At the show

Once you’re at the trade show, it’s important to stay focused on your goal of delivering a great presentation. Following these steps can help ensure you’re on top of your trade show game: 

  • Get there early. Make sure your exhibit is in order before the doors open on exhibit days. Some attendees arrive early so make sure everything is set up and you’re ready to network. Though the saying “the early bird gets the worm” is a bit cliché, it’s definitely true when it comes to exhibiting at a trade show.
  • Dress and act professionally. Whether you wear a shirt featuring your company logo or a suit, always make sure your attire is clean and pressed with your lanyard or nametag visible. You’ll also be on your feet for a long period of time, so it’s a good idea to bring shoes that you’ll feel comfortable in all day. Don’t sit down, slouch or cross your arms when you talk to a customer, and always remember to greet your customer with a smile and look them in the eye. A good first impression can go a long way when starting a business relationship.  
  • Establish talking points. Set individual goals you'd like to meet with each client and pick two or three ideas you want to deliver. Make these points the focus of your presentation so your message can be made quickly and effectively.
  • Watch your after-hours behavior. Yes, trade shows are viewed as networking opportunities, and that often means clients and business leaders mingle over dinner or cocktails. However, it’s wise to not overdo it because, after all, you’re working and representing your company. Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and make sure you’re at your booth ready to go each morning. Showing up looking tired or sick can leave the wrong impression on potential clients. 
  • Bring plenty of business cards. Hand them out to anyone who seems interested in your business and make sure to collect contact information from prospects so you can follow up when you get home.

After the Show

What you do after a show can impact your business just as much as what you do during it. Following up on leads and keeping in touch with contacts is a good way to generate new business and develop lasting professional relationships.

Below are some keys to an effective follow-up strategy:

  • Organize your leads. Using the notes and contact information you collected at the show, reach out to your leads promptly. Staying connected (through email, social media channels, mail or phone calls) and being prompt and proactive in your correspondence leaves a lasting impression — one you hope will turn into a business partnership. To grab their attention, make your communication creative and fresh rather than generic and rehearsed.  
  • Review your marketing plan. Meet with your team to discuss what worked and what didn’t. Look at your budget, your team’s strategy and what you learned from other exhibitors, then make any necessary adjustments to improve your company’s approach at the next show.
  • Evaluate your return on investment (ROI). You invested in this opportunity in the hopes of growing your business, so how did you do? One of the most important factors in the post-trade show time period is evaluating the ROI. After the show, spend some time analyzing whether the benefit was worth the effort.

*Note: Don’t forget to schedule pickup with the carrier of your choice — failure to do so adds additional shipping costs, often called “force freight charges.” Once pickup is scheduled, visit the show’s service desk to complete a Material Handling Agreement for your outbound shipment. In this agreement you can indicate the carrier you prefer and where to send the freight if they fail to pick up (it can be returned to the address provided or delivered to the warehouse). If a plan is not in place, or if the carrier of choice doesn’t show up, the shipment automatically goes to the official show carrier for handling, and additional charges are incurred.

Get started today

Having a plan and being prepared for a trade show can make it a more productive experience. Following some simple tips can put your business on track to gain new customers and more revenue.

Do you need help scheduling a shipment for an upcoming trade show? The trusted professionals at ArcBest® can help. We offer the expertise you need to get your exhibit picked up and delivered — right when you need it. Call a helpful trade show shipping specialist at 844-560-2527 or contact your local account manager for assistance.

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