There’s no business like home show business. While they’re not for everyone, my Wizard of Ads Partners and I have clients across the country, Canada and Australia who have learned how to make effective use of trade shows.
I’ve gathered the shared experiences of Jane Fraser, Tim Miles, Sarah Ripley, Steven Sorenson, Dave Young, and myself to help make your next show more productive. From planning and design to staffing and strategy, there’s bound to be something you can use. Have more ideas? Add them in the comments area below. We’re all in this together!
1. Keep it clean
“Cluttered booths repel traffic,” says Steve Sorenson. “Don’t have a cluttered booth. Keep the message simple so visitors can understand it quickly.” Jane Fraser adds, “That means no staff food or drinks in the booth.”
2. Give your booth a boost
Added lighting makes your booth pop out from others and adds vibrancy. Going vertical draws the curious. Since most shows are rows of pipes and drapes, fly a helium blimp with your name high over your booth. If that’s not possible, try mylar balloon rainbows at least a story high. Height limitations? Get creative to push the boundary.
3. Big screens draw eyeballs
That means REALLY big: 72″ minimum. Put the screen to good use with a video produced for the show. Your TV ad or sales videos won’t do. Create a loop of messages and images timed for a passing crowd. Do NOT use projectors; show. lighting washes out their images.
4. Goals produce results
Give your staff a mission. Steve Sorenson says, “set a goal of how many appointments or names you plan on getting.” By setting mutually agreeable expectations, your staff is more likely to truly work the show.
5. Get out front
“This is a job for extroverts,” Steve says. Get them “out from behind the booth and out in the isles.” Some shows frown on activity beyond booth boundaries. Use judgement.
6. No chairs. Period.
If you have chairs, people will sit down—most likely YOUR people. All my partners agreed: contact increases when booth staffers are standing. Jane Fraser adds, “when you sit down, you become invisible.”
7. Spring for the pad
Don’t be a cheap skate: pay the extra price for a carpet pad. If the show doesn’t offer one, bring your own. Dave Young suggests getting one at Home Depot, Lowes, or even a restaurant supply store. Comfy feet will keep your team going longer.
8. Keep shifts short
Nothing undermines productivity like holding staff captive. Rotate people in and out. “It’s a long day,” Jane reminds us. “Keep your booth manned in short shifts so that your staff is fresh and energized.”
9. Interactive creates involvement
I recently watched people stand in line at a sports festival to play a game at a plumbers booth. To win, guests tossed rolls of toilet paper into a toilet. (Men had to do it with the seat down.) While they waited, booth staffers chatted up contestants and got email registrations. Getting people involved gets you their time and lowers their shields. Steve adds, “a lot of people stop to watch and see” at the same time seeing your message. Jane agrees, stressing that you “make your booth has something to watch, something to give away, something to touch and feel.”
10. Demonstrate. Demonstrate. demonstrate.
Interactive games are good for drawing traffic. Demonstrations generate business. Together, they’re a one-two punch. “Have visitors to use, try, sample your product,” Jane adds. “Get them to see for themselves how it works.”
11. Food is your friend
Corny as it sounds, candy bowls draw people. Same goes for water (if your show allows it). “Give away water with your name on the bottles,” Jane suggests. “Give away lots of it.” These giveaways create a subtle obligation among visitors to at least look and listen. “Try a chocolate fountain – it’s movement catches the peripheral vision, and it’s irresistible,” says Tim Miles. Be sure to check on health department requirements first.
12. Rock your booth with SWAGger
Stuff We All Get. It’s amazing what people will do to get it. If you’re in a service business, gift card magnets are practically required. But, as Tim Miles adds, “If you’re doing giveaways, make them unusual and evocative. If this means spending more, so be it.” Tim also suggests a “chest of toys for kids. It gets parents to stop and talk to you while kids are picking out stuff.” Target and Wal Mart both have aisles of dollar toys.
13. Beware time vampires
It’s not easy, but Sarah Ripley says it’s vital your staff avoids “spending too much time from time takers who are after free advice.” Freebies get costly when they prevent your visiting with more promising prospects. Jane adds the same goes for family and friends, “don’t let them hang around.”
14. Make it easy to do business
Having a great looking booth is good. Having one that books business is better. Sarah Ripley says her clients in Australia come ready to write business and book appointments: A window covering business had “great success utilising on the spot quoting software. Also encouraging appointment making rather than take up time in an extended conversation.”
15. Start a relationship
Sarah adds that those clients turned conversations into relationships by getting email addresses “in exchange for entry into a competition, getting an on-the-spot quote, or setting an appointment.”
16. Maximize collateral benefit
“Get your website information into as many hands as possible,” Says Jane Fraser. “Giving out cards? Have your website printed in REALLY BIG LETTERS on the back—or print cards just for each show.” Tim Miles adds, “Print your brochures and handouts on twice as nice of paper with twice as many pictures and half as much copy.”