Large or small, tradeshows can be effective for connecting with potential customers and networking with others in your industry. Exhibiting or speaking at a tradeshow helps increase brand awareness and thought leadership, and it creates an opportunity to interact with potential customers who may not discover your products or services elsewhere.

Make the most of your next tradeshow with early planning, prompt follow-up and more.

Create an Eye-catching Booth & Hook

You only have a few seconds to engage attendees as they walk by your booth. Carefully think about how you can design and lay out the booth elements so that they help draw people in. Options may include:

  • Look at your booth like a retail store – it should have a clean look and feel and use tactics like video, giveaways and contests to attract passers-by. Provide easy access to collateral so people can grab information and keep moving if they can’t stop to chat.
  • Don’t box in your space with too many tables or displays – provide ample room for potential customers and their colleagues to stand in the booth. Think of your booth as respite from the chaotic show floor. The extra space will also make it easier for your team to maneuver among different groups.
  • Focus on visuals – consider using video and photos to help draw people in – show a service demo or share client testimonials on a loop to add credibility and allow attendees to learn more about your company before talking with a team member. You can also play with unique lighting or even holograms to help your booth pop.
  • Incorporate your product into the booth design– think about how you can go beyond the traditional booth setup to highlight product features and elements. Create a flashy backdrop or build a larger-than-life version of your product to showcase in your booth.

Take Stock of Collateral, Swag & Incentives

Plan to hand out some sort of brochure, flier, coupon or other collateral to give attendees something to reference later on. This collateral should showcase your product or service’s value and competitive differentiators. If you sell a product, include high-quality images and/or samples.

If you plan to give out “swag” items, like pens, reusable water bottles or other trinkets, think about what would resonate most with your target audiences. Are they in front of the computer all day? Maybe a mouse pad makes sense. Are they mobile workers? Consider a USB charger. Some extra thought will help ensure your branded swag doesn’t end up in the trash or junk drawer.

Determine Process for Collecting Leads

Some tradeshows may include a lead capture service with booth registration and others may not, so it is important to ensure you have a system in place to collect contact information.

Lead capture services typically require you to scan a QR code on a person’s badge, either with your smartphone or another device, to collect their info. After the show, you will have access to your list of contacts for follow-up.

If you don’t have access to lead capture technology, set up a laptop or smartphone with a Google form or spreadsheet that collects attendees’ name, company, email address and phone number. Or, you could simply set out a clip board and invite people to write down their information or ask for a business card from people you’d like to stay in touch with.

Whatever you choose, be sure your team is on the same page with how contact information is to be collected.

Build Excitement Before the Event

One or two months before the tradeshow, start promoting your involvement. Create social media posts, publish an announcement on your website and send an eblast to key contacts to spread the word. Each of these communications should include the following details:

  • Date and location of event
  • Booth number
  • What you will showcase/feature at the booth, including incentives, giveaways and hook teasers
  • Information about speaking engagements or workshops you are hosting, if applicable

These communications should drive home why people should visit your booth or attend your workshop. Explain what you have to offer that competitors don’t.

Smooth Sailing During the Event

During the expo, ensure your booth is adequately staffed based on the projected attendee count for the event. They should be prepared to invite passers-by into the booth, engage with them, collect contact information and land a sale.

Additionally, plan to post regularly on social media throughout the event. Share photos of the team in action at the booth, encouraging attendees to stop by, pick up swag or receive exclusive access to an incentive. You can also post about workshops a team member is hosting, or informative sessions you attend. Aim to post at least once per day on all social channels.

Diligent Follow-up

No more than one week after the tradeshow, send an email follow-up to warm leads and reach out directly to hot leads. Offer an exclusive deal or provide an opportunity to keep the conversation going. Add these contacts to relevant email marketing lists, if applicable, to keep your brand top-of-mind. You can also create an email drip campaign to target attendees specifically.

Additionally, publish a blog and social media posts recapping the event, including highlights from workshops and your booth.

Tradeshows involve a lot of planning and attention to detail. It may take one or two big shows for you to work out all the kinks in pre-planning, set up and post-show follow-up, but you’ll soon find your sweet spot that maximizes your time and drives sales.