Each month, Toronto Business Times solicits expert opinions on a question of relevance to the small business community. This month’s question is about trade shows.
By Mary Jane Pickersgill
Preparing and organizing a successful trade show involves an immense amount of work.
Carefully consider the following:
• Who is the typical event attendee? Does the event complement your brand? Does it incorporate a geographical area you are prepared to support?
• Set a budget and stick to it.
• Will your booth theme include overall company products or would you specialize in one or two items and upsell from this event? Can you support the possible influx of customers physically and financially?
• Investigate the area. Are there any restrictions? How is traffic or parking? Is there transportation?
• What time commitment is required of you and your staff?
After determining these factors:
• Speak to the event organizers. How many attended last year? What is the usual traffic flow in the facility? What booths are available in relation to the entrance, exit, food areas and facilities? The middle is good: someone too fresh can forget you; someone too tired will not identify the possibilities you offer. Does each exhibitor have a major donation or giveaway? Ask about hotels: is there an event preference? How are they advertising this event? What is the previous percentage of return exhibitors? How many years has the event been repeated? Will there be an exhibitor floor plan? Is there Internet access? Is the location carpeted? How accessible is your booth from the loading docks? Do your require dollies or a cart? Consider packing in stackable tubs or bags with wheels.
• Create a colour theme, include items like table covers, backdrops and signs; consider your logo colour in planning the display and make it bright, friendly and inviting. Create a major area that will draw prospects into your exhibit.
• Will your event staff wear professional attire?
• Think about electricity and lighting. If lights are unavailable, consider purchasing some to clip to the top of the backdrop. Purchasing facilities may be closed or not easily accessible, so pack cords, power bars and a container for garbage.
• Draws can be advantageous for a potential customer list, but does this suit your product/brand? Will a business card be a possible customer? A contest is always an advantage, especially if it brings people to your booth twice.
• For handouts consider something useful with powerful visibility after the trade show. Know the quantity you require and remember your budget.
• Have cards that are easy to complete for your visitors to fill in for future contact and a place to put the card. Alternatives include a guest book or a journal where leads are secure. Have a stapler and pens available. Pack your business cards with the display.
• Create excitement beforehand. Send current customers and prospects an email invitation. Consider doing some research to include possible prospects, local politicians and purchasing agents.
• Have literature available in a convenient location. Most people use bags that have great visibility after the trade show but remember, Toronto laws will soon restrict plastic bags. Consider the environment.
• Set up the display beforehand and take pictures to ensure easy set up. Have your staff view it. Your representatives should be knowledgeable about it. Make sure you are telling the story needed to produce results. Do you have an upsell to a basic product available? Show co-ordinated items – sell two, not one.
• Make sure your staff members greet your visitors with eye contact, a firm handshake and a smile. Create a schedule for staff breaks. A tired representative is not effective.
• Make sure your staff have time to visit other exhibits. Befriend a competitor – it may also produce a potential customer. Finally, take time to enjoy the event.
Mary Jane Pickersgill is an account manager and veteran sales associate for Talbot. She has participated in a variety of trade and safety shows, including the Human Resources Professionals Association’s annual conference and trade show in Toronto.