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How to Prepare for a Trade Show

Jasleni Art & Design

First thing is first. Is your business ready for a trade show? A trade show can cost anywhere from $250 to $25,000 depending on your location within the show's venue, and that's not even including other expenses like the products you want to bring, samples you want to hand out, demos, marketing materials, advertising costs, and travel expenses. So the first order of business is figuring out if participating in a trade show is the right decision for your business and you can do this by following the steps below.

1. See what others are doing.

Attend at least one trade show within your industry. It would be even better if you could attend the same type of show you're looking to be a part of. Make sure to do your homework and confirm that this show is relevant to your business and/or target audience. This is crucial as you do not want to waste your time with a show that does not have the potential to generate sales for you, or help you meet your goals. Once there, check out what your peers are doing. Take notes of what they did well, and what could use improvement; this will help you form your To Do list for when you prepare your trade show presentation.

The sites below share listings of major trade shows around the world:


2. Figure out your marketing budget.

Prepare to spend at least $5,000 on marketing to have an impact at the trade show. While you may be tempted to cut costs, this is not the place to do it as your presentation is everything. Remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Consider the cost of flyers, business cards, catalogs, brochures, packaging for your products, signs, backdrops, banners, table cloths and runners, t-shirts, promotional items to give away, stickers, labels, and the cost of having a team that can do demos of your product if necessary. If you cannot afford these expenses you may want to consider attending the show as a guest, and networking that way, versus participating in the exhibition.

If you're unsure about what marketing materials you need and how much they will cost, contact me for a quote. I can take care of all your design needs to help you create a stunning presentation you can be proud of.

3. Book everything early.

Your placement in the trade show matters and obviously the best spots are going to be the first ones to go, so make sure you book your spot early. Note that most trade show registrations take place months in advance so be on the look out for the open registration date.

Something else to consider is travel. A lot of trade shows reserve nearby hotel rooms for the event but this is not a guarantee. To ensure you get suitable accommodations, book your hotel, flights, and car rentals sooner rather than later.

4. Consider hiring a PR firm.

A PR Firm will offer insight and expertise that may be beneficial to you, specially if this is your first trade show. Among other things they will help you navigate the logistics of reaching the right people to get the most out of your participation in the trade show.

5. Figure out who is attending the trade show.

Identifying the attendees beforehand is great for organizing a list of who you want to connect with. With this list in mind you can set up appointments with the right people, share email newsletters, prepare swag bags, come up with special promotions, and overall figure out what you want to focus on during the event. The trade show organizers should share this list with you but if they don't ask for one, and also share it with your PR Firm so you can come up with a plan together.

6. Prepare your booth in advance

Hire an experienced graphic designer that can make sure your display will be sharp, professional, and appropriate for your goals. Make sure to do this as early as possible so that you give yourself and the designer time to make a plan, design and edit the work, print the work, and don't forget the shipping time too! It is best to have everything complete at least a month in advance to leave yourself enough wiggle room to correct any production errors.

Once at the trade show, arrive as early as the venue will allow. Make sure your table cloths are ironed, and set up your display with care. You do not want to appear sloppy specially next to your competition.

7. Follow up

If you took advantage of the networking opportunities, you should walk away from the trade show with a ton of contacts. You may even find yourself with a bag full of business cards, flyers, and brochures from the many companies you came into contact with. Review the connections you made and ALWAYS follow up with the ones you wish to keep in touch with. Reach out to them soon, while they still remember you. You can thank them for their time, offer a solution to a need they may have, offer your services, schedule a follow-up appointment, etc. Be careful to not sound too "salesman-like", but DO follow up.

* If you have anything to add, please leave comments below. Please subscribe to my newsletter for more.

Contact me here for help with your trade show display or follow me on social media for more.


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