Published - September 2011

By Dave Jakielo

Is Exhibiting at Trade Shows Right for You?

Even though it seems like Summer has just begun, Autumn isn’t far off and that means there will be a ton of conventions, association and trade show meetings taking place. I often get ask the question, “Should I be an exhibitor at a specific trade show?”

Given that exhibiting is an expensive proposition which includes, creating a professional display, booth fees, travel expenses to the venue and advertising trinkets, I thought I would give you some insight as to how to make an informed decision.

I recommend that you never become an exhibitor at a conference that you have never attended. You are much better off, especially economically, if you attend a new conference as an observer. Check out the crowd, are there potential clients in attendance meaning are they decision makers who have the ability to buy or are they attending because their boss made them go?

Another criteria should be how many of your current clients will be at the conference? If there will be a substantial amount of your clients at the conference and you are not there your competitors could have a field day schmoozing your clients. As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

If after attending a conference and scoping out the crowd you decide this venue does make sense for you, there is another important factor to take into mind before you commit to exhibiting. Never invest your hard earned dollars becoming an exhibitor unless you are will to attend the event three years in a row.

Why? Because here’s how attendees react to any vendor. The first year they see you are there and realize you’re in business with a product or a service to offer. The second year they see you are still in business, not that this impresses them but it validates your existence. The third year when you show up again it gives the prospect confidence that you are a “for real” vendor and they won’t hesitate to do business with you.

The biggest mistake I see many companies make is that they blindly decide to exhibit at a conference and when they don’t get any direct business that first year they decide never to attend again. They might as well just have flushed their money down the toilet and stayed at home, the results would be the same.

So if you have done your homework and decide to invest in being an exhibitor at a trade show let me share some tips with you as to how to work a booth successfully. I don’t have space in this column to list all of my “25 Recommendation for Working a Trade Show Booth,” however, if you email me, address listed below, I’ll be more than happy to send you the complete list for free.

Here are a few of my recommendation to at least get you started on the path to having success at a trade show:

  • Most importantly ensure that every team member who is staffing your booth projects a professional appearance and is well trained to represent your products and services. They need to understand that their main responsibility is to generate leads and secure sales at the conference.

  • Keep your smart phones in your room or car so you are not tempted to read emails, spend time texting, or taking calls while at the booth. Concentrate on the people you’ll be meeting not your technology.

  • Review the attendee list to check for any of your clients and invite them to stop by your both. They can be valuable references.

  • Review the attendee list for prospects to make sure you invite them to stop by or make it a point to bump into them during the conference if they don’t find you.

  • When the exhibit hall is not opened use the available time to meet with a prospect, attend a session to increase your industry knowledge or mingle in the hall ways with your clients or other attendees. Never just kill time.

Hope you have gained some insight into how to decide if a trade show is a fit for you. Because making the wrong choice or not channeling your efforts into having a successful trade show can be a very costly lesson.

Dave Jakielo, CHBME, is an International Speaker, Consultant, Executive Coach, and Author, and is President of Seminars & Consulting. Dave has been helping companies improve their profitability for over four decades. Sign up for his FREE weekly Success Tips at Dave can be reached via email; phone 412-921-0976.

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