8 ways not to waste your money when exhibiting at a tradeshow

So you’re spending money on a stand at a tradeshow huh? It’s not cheap, is it. Here are some tips from a public relations perspective to help you get the most out of your spend.
 

1 Free publicity from show organisers

The trade show organisers will be looking for news items to promote their show to pull in the crowds. So as soon as you agree to participate, contact the organisers’ PR person and start pumping out stories. They will then promote your stall for you for free. You should also be promoting your own stories in the media, so you need to be prepared at least a couple of months before.
 

2 Position and size of your stand

It is better to have a small stand near the entrance or the pathway to the catering or bathroom facilities, than to have a large stand that is in an area that the crowds file past. It is also better to spend money on promoting you stand than on the size of the stand.

Top tip: Provide free coffee and tables and chairs - people linger and sit because it's hard work visiting a tradeshow.
 

3 Collect people’s names and contact addresses

Your primary aim is to collect contacts. This can most easily be done by collecting business cards. The number of these can be increased by offering a a prize for those who leave their cards. That prize can be drawn at the trade show two or three times a day – not just leaving it until the last day when everyone has gone home. The organisers will generally offer you free use of the microphone to announce the prize winner, but there might be a fee. Every time you announce the draw and winner, it is a free plug for your business.

Warning: If you ask people to write down their emails you will cut down the number you collect dramatically, as you’re unlikely to be able to read their hand writing – so write it yourself.

(editor’s note: some conferences and exhibitions now issue coded passes to all visitors; for a small fee you can rent a scanner and just scan details into your database – much quicker than writing contact details down)
 

4 Offer something for free that keeps on coming

Don’t just fill up people’s show bags. Offer people a free newsletter that will provide information they want to receive. That way you get to be in contact with them every month. I once offered doctors a newsletter on research into vitamins. They signed up in droves, helped by a prize of a bottle of great wine for one lucky person.
 

5 Wear a promotion polo-shirt – with a hook to your stand

Most people have shirts with tiny print that you have to squint to read. Print your company’s name large and on the back offer a hook to pull them into your store. That way when you are walking around looking at everyone else’s stand, you are promoting your own.
 

6 Think outside your stand

Be creative. I know one chap who never paid for a stand. Instead he’d walk around pulling a bag on wheels full of information sheets and product samples, wearing a t-shirt promoting his company. That’s not ethical. But if you do have a stand you might do something similar.
 

7 Pull people into your stand with your smile and chatter

This is not the time to be shy. You should be greeting everyone who passes your stand, asking them questions, offering them something free, or anything else that comes to mind. Be a showman – or woman, even if it is against your nature. If you can’t, make sure you have someone on your stand that is.
 

8 Follow up, follow up, follow up

Over the next week your task is to follow up all the people you met. Most people don’t. Get stories in the media saying how successful you were at the show. Also, tell the PR person working for the show organisers – they need success stories.

 

Anna Day
Anna Day has been a PR person for several tradeshows from the mining industry to medical conferences and even childcare shows. She has run several highly successful stands and sold a vast array of products from apple juice, to peak industry organisation memberships and snake oil – well almost!

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CP-plus(an_annual_camera_trade_show_in_Japan).jpg