Planning on attending an upcoming trade show? Not sure where to begin? We’ve come up with a eight-step checklist ensuring you are fully prepared before attending your next trade show.
The trade show has withstood the test of time as an effective marketing tactic. Attending a trade show can help marketers increase brand awareness, generate leads, build stronger customer relationships, and generate sales. The numbers are telling:
- The top two preferred methods for creating high-quality brand awareness are: small events tailored to executives and trade shows (InsideSales).
- 72% of sales and marketing leaders say a trade show is an effective method to generate quality leads (InsideSales).
- 80% of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success (Bizzabo).
- Conferences and trade shows account for one-fifth or more of planned meeting activity in North America and Europe (AMEX).
But, trade shows require extensive preparation. Some might argue, the work you do leading up to a trade show is even more important than the day of the event. For this reason, we’ve compiled a pre-trade show checklist to help you make a lasting impression on the event floor. Let’s get into it!
1. Set Measurable Goals.
Trade shows may be one of the most effective marketing tactics – but they’re also one of the most expensive. So, prior to each trade show, set a series of goals and select several metrics you will track to measure your success and your trade show ROI. Examples of important event metrics include:
- Cost: Determine your budget prior to the event and track all event-related expenses. Be as detailed as possible.
- Lead generation: Track the total amount of leads you generate at the event, as well as the number of high-quality leads according to your lead scoring system.
- Scheduled follow-ups: Track the number of attendees that scheduled a product demo, free trial, or meeting after visiting your booth. Ensuring to follow up with these leads as soon as — or even before — the trade show has ended.
- Social media engagement: Use social media analytics to track any rise in engagement — new followers, retweets, and social media mentions — that result from your trade show appearance.
- Closed deals: Your ultimate goal at a trade show, as with any campaign, is to generate sales. Remember, your trade show leads will be in various stages of their buying journey. Thus, take into consideration that it may take weeks, even months, before sales figures accurately reflect your trade show ROI.
Following each trade show, compare your results to the goals you set prior to the event and revise accordingly. If you fell short, determine specific areas of improvement. If you exceeded your goals, set more ambitious objectives for your next event.
2. Build a Booth That Stands Out.
Event halls are often crowded with competing displays — make sure your booth stands out from the pack. Here’s some tips to impress on the trade show floor.
Optimize your booth location and layout: Ask for a copy of the floor layout early on so you have a clear understanding of the event hall and your booth location. Identify high traffic areas, such as the entrance, exhibit rooms, dining areas, intersections, and restrooms, making sure your booth layout is well-positioned and inviting to attendees. Consider, for example, including comfortable seating and phone charging stations that will, in turn, make attendees more likely to stick around.
Offer photo opportunities: In today’s world of selfies and social media, photo booths are more popular than ever. To maximize engagement, we recommend you turn your photo booth into a fun contest for attendees. You can, for instance, entice visitors to share their photo on social with your unique, branded hashtag in order to enter a raffle.
Use interactive technology: Event statistics show that 86% of event marketers believe technology can have a major positive impact on the success of their events. For this reason, we recommend you leverage interactive technology to grab the attention of attendees and keep them engaged. By incorporating artificial intelligence and virtual reality, you will wow visitors while showcasing your products in a unique way.
Offer unique giveaways: It’s no secret that event attendees love getting free swag — but, it’s important that the branded items you give away are practical and provide real value to attendees. Consider tech-based gifts such as PopSockets, webcam covers, keychain flashlights, USB flash drives, and microfiber cloths. If these don’t align with your brand, don’t overlook tried-and-true swag alternatives, like sunglasses, water bottles, travel mugs, pens, and reusable bags.
3. Personalize Your Presentation.
Fact: 95% of marketers agree live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world. Avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your interactions with attendees. Instead, guarantee a successful trade show experience by creating personalized interactions, which are pivotal to building valuable relationships with prospects that stop by your booth.
Do so by researching attendees ahead of time so that you can tailor your conversations to fit their specific needs and making sure that the employees working your booth are well-prepared, personable, and capable of addressing any questions or concerns a prospect may have.
4. Schedule Appointments Ahead of Time.
Most trade show attendees enter an event with 75% of the booths they’d like to visit already selected (Skyline), making it critical that you reach out to as many attendees as possible ahead of the event. Provide a quick preview of what they can expect at your booth, and offer to schedule a live demo or meeting on event day. This will provide you with a preliminary list of prospects and limit your scheduling efforts — and resources! — during the event.
5. Develop a Targeted Content Strategy.
Your pre-event content strategy is just as important as your booth, if not more so. For this reason, you must develop content to promote your trade show appearance across several channels. Aim to start your campaign at least a month ahead of the event.
Here are a few tips to nail your content strategy leading up to every event:
Create event-themed content: Work the event’s theme throughout your pre-show content. For instance, let’s say the show’s theme is marketing productivity. Create several types of content – from blog posts, eBooks, videos and more– that address this topic. This approach will help you provide value to your audience that goes beyond standard event promotion.
Advertise your booth: Generate some buzz around your booth by advertising giveaways, product reveals, contests, and any other unique features of your display. And, don’t forget to provide detailed directions for prospects to find your booth in the event hall.
Utilize social media: Promote your content across all social channels, and be sure to use event-specific hashtags. Join the greater conversation surrounding the event by engaging with attendees, speakers, and other brands that will be at the trade show. This will facilitate online engagement and brand presence associated to the event.
Prepare physical content: Don’t forget to print physical content to hand out to attendees at your booth. Examples include case studies, brochures, printed infographics and any other content you want prospects to leave your booth with.
6. Use the Official Event App.
Today, most trade shows have a unique mobile event app for attendees to use while at the event. In fact, the amount of event apps has grown 20% year over year (Bizzabo). Familiarize yourself with the event app to learn where specific sessions will take place, identify networking opportunities, and help prospects find your booth.
7. Solidify Travel Plans.
Unless you only attend local events, you’ll likely have to travel for certain trade shows. Avoid last-minute problems by booking flights and hotels as early as possible. Determine what items you will need to ship to the trade show, making sure that any fragile or important items are carefully packed – and have a backup plan in case something does get broken or lost in transit.
8. Prepare for Emergencies.
When you attend a live event, you have to expect a few surprises or unplanned mishaps. But, with careful preparation you’ll be able to address problems on the fly and minimize stress during the event. Be sure your team members have access to each other’s contact information in case of emergencies and consider building a trade show survival kit equipped with items like batteries, chargers, cleaning products, and any other supplies you may need.
Final Thoughts About Pre-Trade Show Planning
We get it—there’s a lot of work that goes into trade show preparation. To recap, let’s review the main takeaways:
- Set quantifiable goals and track your results.
- Design a trade show booth that stands out in the event hall.
- Prepare for personalized interaction with attendees.
- Book appointments before the event.
- Craft a multi-channel content strategy to promote the event.
- Handle travel logistics and plan for the unexpected.
Follow these guidelines as you prepare for each trade show appearance – it may require a lot of time and energy, but your hard work will pay off once you see the amazing results a trade show can produce.