Trade Shows: How to ace your next event

Trade show season is upon is yet again, despite many of us having only just recovered from the last one. It's time to pitch up those stalls, plaster on your biggest smiles and start making some vital business connections. We've put together the ultimate guide on getting through this trade show season, including all of the promotional tools you could possibly need and some tips and tricks from industry experts.

The essentials

Before you even begin to consider how to make a statement at trade shows, you need to start with the basics. There's no point in having the most eye-catching stall in the building if you've got no signage to let people know who you are. We will look at how you can stand out from the crowd a little bit later on, but first let's concentrate on what every trade show stall should have.

First up, you need to tell people who you are. Signage is vital at any trade show, as it can draw people in and leave lasting impressions. Invest in the most premium quality signage that you can afford, to promote your professionalism as a business.

First impressions are vital, as people make up their minds very quickly as to what they think of a person or company. With this in mind, it's important to ensure those first impressions are the best they can be. Opt for something eye-catching that complements your branding.

Next up are those all-important business cards. There are plenty of ways to give a potential customer or client something to remember you by (we'll look at some more later on), but business cards are the simplest and most effective way to make connections and secure yourself some sales.

As networking is the key reason for visiting a trade show, it goes without saying that you need to get yourself some high quality cards printed up. Don't forget, it's likely those visiting trade shows will take home dozens of business cards, making it important that yours stands out. Think outside the box and create something that won't be lost amongst everyone else's. 

Last up, it is imperative that you bring ample staff members to help run your stall. Not only that, but make sure that they all bring their 'A' game on the day. You may want to give your staff a little bit of trade show training before unleashing them on potential customers and clients.

If you have some excellent salespeople within the business, then these are the ones to bring along. Remember, you can only talk to one person at a time and everybody needs a toilet break once in a while. If you have a small stall then two will be enough, but bigger stalls will definitely require more staff members.

Standing out from the crowd

Now that you're ready with the essentials, it's time to create a stall that truly stands out from the crowd. There are dozens of promotional and marketing tools you can use to ensure your trade shows go with a bang, so let's take a look at just a few.

  • Banners and posters – Getting professionally printed banners and/or posters is an excellent way of grabbing the attention of passers-by, whilst also providing a talking point. You should ensure that all posters and banners are big enough to be seen from a distance, with clear and crisp text that is easy to read. Keep your branding theme consistent on all banners, posters signage and other promotional materials.
Photo by Boolve
  • Sound and light – If you want to create a stall that satisfies the senses, then you need to think about lighting and sound. We're not saying you should invest hundreds in lasers and deafening speakers (unless you're promoting those as your products), but you should consider some form of sound and light. How about backlit graphics and posters? What about a TV showing your company advertisement? There are plenty of ways you can utilise sound and light to draw people in, whilst also making your competitors jealous.
  • Examples of your product – Depending on what your business sells, this can be a deal breaker when it comes to trade shows. If you sell cakes then you need to have cakes on show to see and to taste. Don't just bring in a Victoria sponge and hope there will be an instant wow-factor, as it's not going to happen. Spend some time creating the most awe-inspiring cakes for people to look at and to try.

People want to be able to experience your product, so ensure that they can see it, touch it and even taste it if possible. If you don't sell anything that can be taken to a trade show, such as a service, then this is not going to be applicable. You can still give the potential customers or clients something to take home, however, which we will look at very soon.

Photo by Horia Varlan

  • Entertainment – Take a look at some of the biggest industry trade shows in the world and you'll notice they all have something in common; the entertainment is incredible. These trade shows are renowned for pulling people in through wild and wacky forms of entertainment, with stall owners attempting to outdo each other every year.

Gaming and car shows are the best examples of how to entertain your potential customers or clients. Pick up some inspiration from other industries and work out how you can use this on your own stall.

The key to standing out from the crowd is making sure that your methods are relevant. There's no point in having a juggling monkey on your stall if it has no relevance to your product or service. However, if you sell juggling balls then maybe that juggling monkey would make sense (maybe).

Come together as a team, a few weeks or months before your trade show, and consider all of the different and viable ways you can stand out from the crowd.

Something to take home

You've worked really hard at drawing in visitors, managed to speak to each and every one of them and now you're waiting for all the phone calls, website visits and sales. But wait, it's been three months now and you haven't made one sale from the trade show.

Why has this happened? It's most likely that you haven't given the potential customers something to take home with them and they've forgotten all about you. If you want a trade show to become a solid investment for you, then you need to give visitors something to take home.

There are plenty of promotional or marketing materials you can have made, that people can take home with them, in order to boost sales. Leaflets and brochures are some of the most commonly used promotional tools in trade shows; meaning it is essential you have some excellent quality ones printed up.

If you want to think outside the box slightly then consider postcards or greeting cards with your details on the back. You could even turn these into price lists, if that's a viable option for your business. A good looking catalogue or brochure is going to give your visitors something to take home, enjoy, and potentially buy from. 

Another option is to give away samples of your product to potential customers. This is a particularly good idea if you sell something small, products in bulk, or something edible. Just make sure that if you do give these products away, that there is something on them that tells the customer who you are. Don't just give out free cake and expect them to remember where it came from. Package the samples up neatly and include a sticker with your details on, for a long lasting impression.

If you don't have any products you can give away then consider getting some made up. Stationery, t-shirts, mugs, poker chips, golf balls, dog collars, whatever you think is relevant and going to stand out. Pens are the most given away items at trade shows, so try to steer clear of the obvious.

Tips and tricks for success

Now you're armed with everything you need to make your stall shine and your visitors happy. So, what next? We've collated some of the best tips and tricks from industry experts, to ensure your trade show is a huge success.

  • Step outside your stall – Customers and clients won't always come to you, sometimes you need to go to them. If your stall seems unusually quiet then make your way into the walkways and bring people to you. Don't let your stall become your 'box', step outside and engage people as they are walking past. It may be handy to have some samples of your product, leaflets, brochures or business cards on you as you do this.
  • Ask open questions – Asking a potential customer if a yes or no question is not going to get you noticed, so be sure to always ask open questions. One of the best things you can ask is “what brings you to the trade show today”, as it sparks conversation. Once you've started a conversation it will become a lot easier to talk about your product or service, and potentially make a sale.
  • Run a giveaway or competition – If your goal is to capture leads then competitions are a great way to do so. In return for potential client details, offer a prize that is relevant to what you do.

For example, if you sell cakes then giveaway a three tier celebration cake to the winner. The prize has to be worth the effort and most people don't like giving away their details for nothing. Remember to include the cost of your prize in your trade show marketing budget.

  • Make things easy for potential customers – If a visitor has to go onto your website, find the product or service, fill in their details and add a voucher code then you're going to make a lot less sales than you had hoped for. Why? Because we live in an age where convenience and saving time is imperative.

If something seems like too much work then it will put your potential customer off, in a big way. With this in mind, ensure that it is easy for people to buy your product or service after the trade show. QR codes on leaflets, with specific landing pages, are a great way to do this. Alternatively, simply take down their details and do the chasing and hard work for them.

Put these tips and tricks into action, along with your high quality promotional and marketing materials, to ensure this season's trade show is better than any before it. You may be surprised at the difference just some of these ideas can make, when it comes to generating leads and sales.

Whatever your industry, we wish you the best of luck at your next event; who knows, we may even see you there!



David Brookes
09 Sep 2014 20:59
Great post
14 Sep 2014 12:17
Some very helpful tips! Trade shows feel like an overwhelming thing to get organised for.
15 Sep 2014 21:35
Awesome Business Card Concept (Y)
Craig Symes
03 Nov 2014 11:34
Brilliant Business cards, both creative and professional, helps leave an great impression. Business cards that actually leave an impression. Far superior to another brand that is pushing out lots of marketing for a sub standard product.
Stuart Glegg
25 Mar 2015 21:44
Great tips, it's a brave person that attempts the trade show
30 Nov 2016 11:39
good advice hear, thanks :)
09 Feb 2017 09:13
great advice
Bryony Bishop
10 Oct 2017 15:22
Some excellent advice

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