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Make Your Next Trade Show Appearance Work for You

Originally published by 4imprint 23 April 2018

Trade shows are one of the best places for gathering leads. But statistics show you don’t have a lot of time to capture those leads. According to Exhibitor Live, trade show visitors spend an average of 15 seconds at each booth, giving you a very tiny window to convince potential customers to stay, learn about your product or service, and provide their contact information.

While trying to turn 15 seconds into a meaningful connection can seem like a daunting task, there are steps you can take to help make the most of your trade shows.

In this Blue Paper, you’ll learn how careful planning, an eye-catching booth, engagement and trade show giveaways can help you turn your next trade show into more connections and more customers.

Determine your goals

Are you going to trade shows to get sales leads? Are you there to introduce a new product? Every decision you make regarding your trade show strategy should connect directly to your goals.

More importantly, your goals will help you quantify whether the trade show met your company’s needs.

Choose your trade shows wisely

If you’ve got a standard set of trade shows you attend every year, it’s worth taking a moment to consider whether the shows are helping you accomplish your goals. Perhaps you see the same faces at the same shows year after year, so they’re not bringing you new business. Or maybe there are too many companies offering your same service or product, meaning you get lost in the shuffle.

As you put together your trade show calendar, consider trying one or two new shows that will introduce you to a new set of faces.

This was the strategy adopted by the Canadian Centre for Product Validation in London, Ontario. The organization assesses products for clients, performing tests according to the product specifications. The company is working on ISO 17025 certification so it can add automotive testing as one of its services. Because this will open up business in a new market, the Canadian Centre for Product Validation attended an automotive trade show. To make their presence more memorable, they gave out the Mobile Measure Key Ring.

“We wanted to offer something useful that wasn’t the usual pen,” said Sabrina Tomaszewski, assistant to the CEO. “And honestly, we also wanted these for ourselves!”

The keychains were a hit. “It was a 30,000-person conference, and we brought 400 keychains,” Tomaszewski said. “We ran out in about two hours. People were coming over from the other side of the conference to get the keychains.”

Thanks to their choice of trade show swag, potential clients are talking to them about their future automotive testing services.

Start prepping early

Sometimes it’s difficult to plan for a trade show that is months away—more immediate tasks seem to take priority. But planning early and strategically will not only reduce undue stress at the end, you’ll also be more likely to reach your goals. Many experts agree that planning a year in advance of the show will drive greater success.

Order trade show swag

A key part of your planning process is brainstorming trade show giveaway ideas. Keep in mind that these items serve as an initial calling card and as a long-term reminder of what your company does and how to reach you.

8 in 10 consumers felt more positive about a brand after receiving a promotional product. Get ideas for trade show giveaways.According to a study by PPAI media, “Eight in 10 consumers revealed that their impression of a brand positively changed directly as a result of receiving a promotional product from that brand.” That’s a lot of goodwill for a small amount of trade show swag.

Sometimes, the best way to get people to your booth is to find ways to help them get through their day. Consider giving attendees an Energize Jr. Portable Power Bank, which helps them stay connected while offering a daily reminder of your brand.You could also give them a small branded snack or a foldable water bottle, which is easy to carry and doesn’t take up much space.

In the longer term, the most effective trade show swag ideas include items that tie directly to your brand.

OMNIsport in Stony Plain, Alberta, specializes in items like dasher boards and hockey accessories. When they head to trade shows, they bring Stress Reliever – Hockey Pucks, an item that symbolizes their brand and is always a huge hit.

“We bring 100 or so of them. They’re usually gone on the first day,” Regional Manager Trevor Burant said. “They have our logo and phone number on them, and our customers tend to keep them on their desks because they’re sports-related.”

Although they mostly attend sports-related trade shows, OMNIsport finds that even at non-sports events, the giveaway is very popular. “Everybody needs stress relief, right?” Burant said.

Consider being a speaker

While the trade show floor is a great place to gather leads, it’s also worth showing you’re an expert in your industry by being a presenter or appearing on a panel. Doing so also gives your product or service additional credibility.

There are other benefits as well. As a listed speaker, there’s a stronger chance people will come visit your booth. You’ll also receive a great deal of free advertising, since you’ll be featured on the trade show’s website, app, social media posts and printed materials. And of course, you’ll have an extended chance to interact with potential customers and discuss their needs and how you can meet them.

Speaking engagements are also a great place to hand out some swag. Consider giving a Huntington Notebook Set – Silver to participants so they can take notes during your presentation. If you want to build even more buzz, hold a special prize draw at your presentation. Offer the winner a Moleskine® Smart Writing Set, which allows the user to take notes by hand and then capture the text digitally via an app.

Announce your presence before you go

Trade shows provide an opportunity to catch up with customers and business contacts. It’s also a good idea to reach out to potential customers or clients who may be interested in meeting you in person or seeing a demonstration of your product or service.

The Canada Business Network offers multiple ways to let people know you’ll have a booth and look forward to meeting them:

  • Use your website, blog, newsletters, email and social media to invite customers and potential customers to meet up at the show
  • Put reminders on invoices, statements and email correspondence
  • Send a press release to trade journals and local newspapers announcing your appearance in the show, including any new products or services you’ll be featuring

This can also be a great opportunity to use trade show giveaways to get people to visit your booth. Make sure all your messaging includes a note to “Mention this post/ad/email to receive a special giveaway.” Then offer them something fun and memorable, like a Star Shape Massager, along with the message “We’re here to solve your pain points.”

Because you’ll want to give people time to plan their trade show attendance, it’s best to start your marketing push at least two months in advance.

Capture contact data

Before we lived in a digital world, capturing client data was often about putting business cards in a fishbowl or having clients fill out paperwork by hand.

Today, there are a variety of apps that can help you capture, sort and export contact data. Some trade shows even offer systems that allow you to capture contact data by simply scanning attendee name tags.

Often, potential clients will be willing to offer their contact information in exchange for a fun or surprising booth giveaway item. Trade show swag ideas may include something unusual, like Chocolate Dipped Fortune Cookies—with a special message or offer—or a new twist on a classic, like a Broadcast Banner Pen.

Whether you’re using an app or writing customer pain points on business cards, be sure to get as much information as possible about your client’s needs. Follow-up is crucial.

Make a memorable first impression

Because attendees are spending just 15 seconds on average at your trade show booth, grabbing their attention as quickly as possible is key. Here are a few tips to help you stand out:

Do something interactive

One of the best ways to engage people is to pull them in with something more than conversation. For example, games are a great way to get people talking and collect their contact information. Here are a few options you can try:

  • Invite attendees to spin a Micro Prize Wheel – 14″,offering logo’d products as prizes.
  • Ask trivia questions about your company, product or service.
  • Fill a Vibe Candy Jar – 27 oz. with candy and ask people to guess how many pieces are in the jar. Have them write their answer on a business card. The winner gets to keep the jar—or trade it for a special prize or discount on your product.

Demo your product or service—live or on video

If possible, offer a live product demonstration in your booth. If not, consider creating a short video presentation or an interactive app that allows attendees to learn about the product at their own pace.

If you want to crank up the wow factor and offer up some cool swag at the same time, you could include a virtual reality component in your product presentation—and give away virtual reality glasses at your table.


Choose the right staff and train them

Studies have shown that you have 7 seconds to make a good impression. Get ideas for trade show giveaways that will help make a good impression.Studies have shown that you have seven seconds to make a good impression, and that impression is made mostly with nonverbal cues. That means your booth staff will only have a small window of time to engage with each person walking by—and they need to make every second count!

Here are a few methods to make sure your trade show team represents your company in the best possible light:

  • Attitude is everything: Staff members in the booth should be excited to be there and ready to engage with the public. Make sure everyone remembers to follow the dress code, face customers while talking, and keep their phones in their pockets or bags.
  • Know your goals: Whether it’s creating sales leads or demoing a new service, make sure everyone knows what they’re meant to accomplish at the trade show.
  • Identify good leads: Train staff to determine whether the potential customer is a useful lead, either via a questionnaire tied to contact information collection or via questions provided by a sales representative. Have a plan in place once your team determines a lead’s viability. If they have an immediate need, you may want to send them to a sales rep at your booth. If their need is in the future, collect the lead’s contact information and give them an idea of when someone will be in touch to discuss your offerings. And if the lead doesn’t require your services, politely disengage and move on to the next lead.
  • Role-play: Have your staff practice their engagement techniques in advance. At minimum, make sure they’re comfortable making eye contact and collecting contact information.

Encounters with booth staff make up 80% of what visitors remember 6 months after a trade show. Get ideas for trade show giveaways to help make those interactions more memorable.According to the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, this short face-to-face encounter will account for 80 percent of what people remember about your company six months after a trade show. So be sure your staff is ready to put their best foot forward.

Follow up and track your results

You planned, prepared, offered a useful promo product, executed a great trade show booth experience and now your work is done. Almost.

Sales Initiative offers some simple steps for following up once the trade show is over, including:

  • Organize your data: Remove duplicate contacts, and determine who is an immediate sales lead, who is an excellent networking contact, etc.
  • Pick a strategy: Everyone should be contacted within a few days of the trade show, but your methods and message may vary. Some contacts may just need a simple email reminding them who you are and what you do. Others may require an immediate phone call to start talking prices.
  • Prioritize leads in order of importance: Get your hot leads to sales right away. Then develop a follow-up strategy for companies that might need your services in six months or a year.

It’s also a good idea to chat with your team on what went well and what could have been improved. Try to do this within a week of the show when everyone’s memories are still fresh. Also, taking detailed notes will help you plan for the next event.

Get ready to use your booth and trade show giveaways all over again!

With a solid strategy in place, trade shows can help you accomplish numerous goals. Implement these best practices for planning, training your team, developing an engaging booth and choosing memorable trade show giveaways to make the next show your most successful one yet.


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