Work the Floor: How to Go Beyond Basics at Trade Shows

Date: June 03, 2013

Network at Trade ShowsGet out of your booth and connect with attendees to get the most out of your next exhibit

As an author and representative of Dark Quest Books for 10-plus years, Danielle Ackley-McPhail attends eight to 15 trade shows a year. Her motto? Be prepared.

"Pack a utility kit to help you—or your fellow exhibitors—with unexpected issues. The kit should include duct tape or electrical tape, a multi-tool with features like pliers, screwdriver heads, and a cutting tool or scissor, basic first aid kit, zip ties, extra batteries, a toiletries kit with comb, mints, a nail clipper, lint roller, extra lights and extension cord/power strip, and paper towels.” Because you just never know. Solid preparation is a key element in trade show success. In this second in a two-part series, we offer five further tips for making the most of your exhibit.

1. Start Local

"If you're just starting out, consider checking out your local chamber of commerce's business expos or trade shows. Many of them offer heavily discounted exhibitor fees to their members, and often do a great job with promoting the event to local and regional media.

"At my first trade show, I paid just $250 for my booth, which included a table, signage, and two chairs. It was a very good and inexpensive investment to see if trade show marketing was a viable channel for my business," says Marjorie R. Asturias, principal, Blue Volcano Media.

RELATED: 3 Tips to Guide Your Hyperlocal Strategy

Bottom line:

A trade show can represent a major expense. What can you hope to get out of it? Probably not a sale—most people come to look rather than to buy. More likely you’ll be collecting names. With the right approach you will leave not just with a portfolio of email addresses and phone numbers but, rather, with contact information for those who are best placed within their organization to make buying decisions down the line.

2. Walk the Floor

"Don't stay in your own booth the whole time. Walking the show is a great way to meet people who may not have passed your booth on their own, or to establish mutually beneficial relationships with other exhibitors," says Crystan Small, assistant account executive, Amy Levy Public Relations. Walking the room also gives you a prime opportunity to see what the competition is up to.

RELATED: How to Shop Your Competition to Test Business Ideas

3. Cut the Spam

"Event organizers often sell attendee lists to third-party vendors. You can ask to be taken off that list, to avoid being deluged with spam," says Trish Sweeney, VP marketing, Topcor. "Another tactic: Set up a generic email account and general phone number specific to your role as an exhibitor. This will save time and effort after the show, as you try to separate the meaningful contacts from the dross."

4. Stay Focused

"Make sure booth staff is 'on' at all times. They should refrain from checking their phones, working on their laptops, snacking at the booth and continually chatting with each other. They should always appear approachable, friendly and be ready to engage show attendees,” recommends Carol Galle, president and CEO of Special D Events.

RELATED: How to Get the Most out of Staff Presentations

5. Be Helpful...

...especially to the media. Reporters can get easily overwhelmed, especially those not familiar with the industry. Offer producers and reporters the opportunity to walk the show floor with someone who understands the category and can offer sound insights and opinions on what’s hot and what’s not. The 24/7 news cycle puts pressure on media representatives to find and file the news in short order. A helping hand today may help to land you in the pages of tomorrow’s trade journals and mainstream news outlets.

RELATED: 5 Things Reporters Don't Want to Hear From You


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