Best in ShowNovember 1, 2011

Tradeshow, Symposiums and Conferences are a great way to expand your reach, enhance your brand, and meet new clients and re-kindle old relationships. Consider the following strategies before attending your next conferences as a vendor with a booth or table.

Pre-Conference Skill Moves:

1) Address who is your target audience?

a) Current Clients - rewards, education. When you invite your ‘special’ clients – offer them a special gift just for stopping by your booth. This is above & beyond the Discount coupon. Show them a picture of the gift in the email or postcard. Tell them they are special that is why they get the ‘good’ gift. Make sure that the big gift is not showing at the booth. You want them to talk to you to redeem. Make sure the booth reps know who the ‘invited’ special attendees are and when they might expect them. Have their file available to target their special needs.

b) Prospects - Hot/cold prospect list. Offer them the Discount registration coupon for the conference. Tell them to drop by your booth to register for a special prize/gift. If you want to track the success of your prospect list – make the card be the entry form. Have your booth # on the card as well show picture of gift or add code to retrieve gift that is specific to the list. Again, have the prospect list available to booth reps. Tag the spreadsheet with prospect’s needs.

2) How can you find them?

a) Internal contact lists. Ask for lists from other departments – if possible.
b) Introduction from clients - Ask your clients for referrals. Word of mouth is some of the best way to reach new markets. Offer reward for client referrals.
c) Buy lists
d) Social media –Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Do you have a following? Tell your fans that you’ll be at the show. Add the conference to your blogs, posts, etc. Tweet about new speakers addressing issue your company has solutions. Ask your fans/friends to ‘like’ your posts. What solutions would they like to see when they visit? Is there a technology they would like to try that you could bring? Engage them in conversation.

3) How can you reach them?

a) Email - Forward the Conference’s Email blasts with a personal note about your involvement. Personnel speaking/moderation a session, your booth #, etc. Repeat with updated message at least twice. “Remember to give them the discount registration code. Send reminder message one week before the conference!

b) Snail mail – now that so many people are using electronic mail, social media, posted letters and colorful postcards are making a comeback. Add your booth #, the discount code and your company logo. OR develop your own card using the conference logo. Remember to use Color – special offers – Conference Discount but that - LESS IS MORE!

c) Phone Call – Make your special clients feel Special – call them! Have you sent out a proposal recently? Call the contact to invite them for a demo at the conference.

d) Website. Add the conference logo to your website with a link to the Conference website. Add the conference to your calendar of events. Do you blog on your website? Introduce a blog topic that will be addressed at the conference. Remember to add your booth # to the website announcements.

e) Paid advertising – If your company is advertising in a publication, ask to have “Visit us at
Booth # xx at the Conference

f) Press releases (non paid advertising) are you launching a new line that you’ll be highlighting at the Conference? Send out the press release 4 weeks before the conference. Do you have speakers at the conference? Use the attached speaker press release.

g) Announcements through Associations. Do you belong to other professional associations? Ask to have the Conference listed on their Calendar of Events or in the association Newsletter. Again, a perfect place to use the press releases from above.

4) What in the world will you say?

a) DISCOUNT CODE – be a hero for your clients and prospects. Give them the Discount code to save $50 off the standard registration fee! Many conferences have promo's, call the organizer and ask them if you can jump on the discount band-wagon to promote their conference. The code is ____. Add the code to your email blasts, postcards, web site and in conversation. You'll look like a true insider, well connected and thoughtful. Works like a charm.

b) Offer Free Parking!!! Even if it is always Free, throw it into your marketing materials. Again, knowng the scoop and sharing it, adds value to your business and you sky rocket to the top of the most resourceful person totem pole. Next time they need to know the deal on something, they'll be sure to call you.

c) Less is more – keep your message short. Drive them to the Conference web site, for all the information.

d) Is one of the speakers/moderators from your company? Send this information out. Speakers are experts – send the message that your company has premier experts on staff.

e) Free Stuff!!! – Raffle/Business card drawings – tell them to bring the postcard/message with them to enter the drawing for a ‘special’ prize. Think of a prize that might relate to your company/product/service. Show the picture of the ‘gift’ they receive when they stop by the booth.

f) New product launch – Large equipment display – Market your presence at the Conference to let your clients see/touch/understand your product line.

5) Prepare for arrival.

a) Exhibitor package traditionally includes space, electricity, carpet, 6’ table, two side chairs and a wastebasket.

b) Reach out to the Show Decorator for additional balloons, consider incorporating a theme.

c) Order swag – remember green is the new gold standard. When ordering swag (give-aways and toys). My top two favorites are:

i) ZippyDogs -
ii) Swag Connection-

d) Reserve hotel rooms. Ask for the conference rate.

e) Literature for the show. Save the cost of printing and load your literature onto flash drives. This offers an opportunity to give a gift with your logo, have information available and BRAND your company Green!

At The Conference

6) Seating. Sitting on a barstool will keep you at eye-level with most visitors. Avoid chairs at regular height as it creates a sense of distance between you and your visitors, thus breaking rapport with them. Change out 6’ table for tall ‘cocktail’ table(s) with tall director’s chair or barstool. Sitting on a barstool will keep you at eye-level with most visitors helping facilitate conversation and create a sense of rapport with them.

7) Get off your rump! If the show is slow or the volume of people approaching your booth seems low, get up! Stand up, walk around within your area. Chit-chat with people grabbing coffee, snacks, etc. Invite people walking by to come into your booth, ask them if they dropped their card for a chance to win _____.

8) Lights! Yes the conference usually has lighting but consider adding your own to highlight your booth, products and to add ambiance. Think down AND up lighting to get different looks. Colored lights (red & blue) can work well.

9) Create gender/age balance. Balancing the number of men and women in your exhibit will help ensure your visitors feel comfortable during their visit. An exhibit staffed by all men or all women may not be as inviting to the opposite sex. In addition to gender balance, when possible, have different ages of staff at your exhibit to ensure that visitors can relate to the staff at your exhibit.

10) Less is more when it comes to displaying your literature - it is better to replenish your materials frequently than have a disorganized surplus at any one time. Large piles of flyers or show-special handouts may appear to some visitors that no one has taken an interest in your materials. Store large quantities of your handouts and flyers under your table and only display short, smaller piles at any one time.

11) Better yet – don’t have printed literature but save the information on flash drives as give-a-way for serious prospects. Protect the information files so they can’t be erased BUT leave enough space on the flash drive for user to add information – making the flash drive a ‘keeper’!

12) Use a photo. Put a head-and-shoulders photo of yourself or a photo of your product on your literature. These photos will help visitors remember you when they browse through your materials at a later date. Many visitors collect a multitude of flyers and brochures during the show and when they get back to their office, they sift through each piece, usually tossing away what they don't need. Having your photo on your materials will help them reconnect with you again.

13) At the show be friendly - wear a name tag and smile. When people come by your booth, you’ve a VERY short period of time to catch their attention. This is the time you need to have something to say. Create a 15 – 20 second “speech” you can recite. For example, if you sell marketing services, why not try this, “Hi there, I’m Mike Lewis and I use marketing to create a magical effect for your target audience that will take you anywhere in the business world you wish to go.” Sounds more exciting that “I do marketing”, doesn’t it?

14) Free stuff and swag. Everyone likes to get something for free and you want them to remember your company.

a) Have a drawing several times a day for a larger item that people will really use and that's related in some way to your business. This is the very best idea ever. Why? People come BACK to your booth to see if they've won. This gives you yet another chance to get your marketing message.

b) Go Green! Look for swag and give-a-ways that are environmentally friendly. Most swag providers have a ‘green’ section with products made from recycled materials. If you choose this type of gifts make sure you highlight the fact. Brand you company’s commitment to sustainability!

c) Offer reusable bags. Many visitors collect a multitude of samples, brochures, and business cards during the show. Offer them a carry bag that displays your company logo. Not only will you appear as the hero for giving them a handy carry bag, you will also have your name/logo displayed at the show while people carrying your bags are browsing the other exhibits.

d) How about toys as swag? Lighten up the trade show by having swag that makes people laugh. Everyone is a kid at heart (though they might not admit it). Attract people to your booth with swag that is fun!

e) Keep your booth clean! Yes, everyone needs a break – but if possible take your meal breaks away from the booth. If you do have water/coffee/ beverages in the booth – make sure they are hidden behind or under cover as much as possible. Keep the literature straightened. Use the 20/20 rule – things should look pleasing from 20 inches to 20 feet away.

15) Networking - where do you network besides in the booth? It is one of the main reasons companies exhibit. However it is sometimes difficult to network while working the booth. Create other opportunities for more intimate conversations.

a) Hospitality room – rent a suite at the hotel and use the ‘living room’ as a conversation area. Invite your best prospects for a cocktail and snack or make it the ‘party room’. 

b) Breakfast meeting – invite your special prospects/clients to a breakfast meeting in the restaurant or perhaps in one of the hotel’s small meeting rooms. Have an Early Bird meeting – highlight a new product or service.

c) Use the parking lot for your large equipment that you can bring to the Conference and park in the lot. Schedule tours of the equipment before, the conference, during the breaks and after the sessions end.

16) How do you network? Sure we network all the time but let’s remember the basics. The simplest way to approach networking is with 2 primary goals in mind: Get to know people; ASK questions about their business and how you may be able to help them.

a) Get them to know you; TELL them about your business and how they may be able to help you.

b) TIP: Keep the 80/20 rule in mind; listen 80% of the time and only talk 20% of the time. You’ll learn a lot about the contacts; which can help you determine whether they are a qualified contact to build a relationship with.

c) As you can see, the goal of networking is to build relationships, NOT trying to sell and grab as many business cards as possible by the end of the event! When you take the focus away from trying to get business from the contacts you meet and focus on building a relationship they are more responsive and over time they will start to become “referral machines” for you and/or “open doors” for developing business opportunities. Keep in mind that it’s important for you to return the good will by giving referrals as well.

d) Key reasons for building relationships through networking are:

i) Partnering your products/service offerings
ii) Referring business contacts and opportunities to each other
iii) Asking for advice Exchanging Ideas

17) Create and practice a pre-determined list of open ended questions to ask for learning more information about the contacts you meet, below is a Top 10 list of examples you can use to get started:

a) What does your company do?
b) What industry do you serve?
c) Who are your key prospects/clients?
d) What type of products do you have?
e) What is your competitive advantage?
f) What got you started in this industry/job?
g) What do you enjoy most about the profession you are in?
h) What trends do you foresee in your industry/profession?
i) What marketing/sales activities have you found to be the most successful for your business?
j) Can you refer me to someone that does ___? Tip: Use the phrase “tell me more” often, this will indicate interest

After the Conference

18) Thank you cards. All those business cards you collected – send a thank you note to those that visited the booth. Even if they just dropped their card into the drawing bin, send them a thank you card. They might be a resource for a referral.

19) Prospects collected at the show. Besides sending them the thank you card, follow up with a phone call.

20) Invite them to your next Trade Show or event.