Location, Location, Location (and a few other things)

Trade show consultants will tell you there is nothing more important to the success of your trade exhibition than preparation. What happens at the trade show is entirely out of your control, but how you prepare for the event will determine how you’re able to handle whatever comes your way in the course of the show. So let’s look at the handful of things you can do to make the most of your exhibition experience.

Before you even register to participate in a trade show, you absolutely must know your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. Identify a goal or goals for a particular show; is this a get-my-product-into-some-hands kind of show or one in which making industry contacts is more crucial? Having the goal in the front of your mind will make the rest of your planning a piece of cake. If sales are your goal, your booth should be set up to bring customers into the booth (not passing by or standing on the outside), with an area specifically identified and equipped to showcase the product and make sales easy for the customer. If making contacts is your goal, it should be easy to get in and out of your booth, both for you and contacts. Don’t make them feel trapped in a sales pitch, but make them comfortable in a conversation space. Customers and contacts alike will be more open in any situation in which they feel comfortable and welcome.

If you have the opportunity to pre-select your location at the show, a couple of things should stay in your mind as you choose your spot. Are there any industry leaders who will be present at the exhibition? If possible, locate your booth as close to theirs as is comfortable without being overwhelmed. You’ll gain their traffic flow but won’t be overshadowed. Avoid entrances and exits as they can become congested, stopping traffic flow to the show and forcing some impatient attendees right past you. Don’t locate near a booth that will be using sensory overload approaches; you don’t want to be near a PA system, a booth with loud music or rowdy entertainment, or even strong smells. These will all distract from you and your product. Staying in a main aisle is the best option, though if you have to locate in a lower-profile area, use that rural feel to help your product stand out among the other not-so-lucky participants. A superior product in an inferior location is always better than an overpowered product on the main drag.

Keep the spotlight on your product or service, not on gimmicks or cheap giveaways. Appearance is everything in the spotlight, so make sure your colors sync with your company colors or logo, your employees are dressed alike so they’re easy to identify, and your product is at eye-level (not waist high on a table) so it’s the first thing people see. Intentional lighting can go a long way in keeping the focus on your product without overwhelming it.

Maybe the title of this blog should be “Planning, Planning, Planning.”