How to make your time at a trade show worthwhile

Here, Nick Braund, head of technology and innovation at PHA Media, discusses how to be fully prepared for a trade show.

Trade shows should never be underestimated as a tool to help your business develop

Trade shows should never be underestimated as a tool to help your business develop

Trade shows are an incredible way to showcase your business among those within your industry and beyond. Whether you’re a start-up or a global corporation, trade shows should never be underestimated as a tool to help your business develop.

There are plenty of options out there for your business. International shows such as IFA Berlin boast 19,000 exhibitors, while other, more intimate shows at regional venues offer you a more targeted audience. Regardless of the location, the diversity in exhibitors will help you establish new relationships.

The right show for the right business

Some businesses make the expensive error of attending as many trade shows as possible. While it is important to spread the word of your brand, it certainly isn’t cost effective to spend time away from the office speaking to those who aren’t going to make an impact on your progression. Spend some time looking at your business development plan and establish where exactly you want to be in the next few years – this will help you find the right trade shows.

Pre-show strategy

Once you have settled on your shows, do your research and look into the background of the other delegates. Find out who your competitors are and think how you can stand out from the crowd. It’s hugely competitive and finding that one to one time, albeit ten minutes and an exchange of cards, will be invaluable for you to make an impact, so make sure you perfect that elevator pitch.
Once you have identified some key targets, reach out to them prior to the show and organise a meeting, mentioning what stand you will be exhibiting at and if you’re talking on a panel. This proactive approach will make you stick in their mind before the event has even begun and will help them seek you out amongst the chaos that is at trade show.

Stand out from the crowd

First impressions are everything and trade shows are no exception. Your offering could be a world first, but when there are tens of thousands of exhibitors at international trade shows, even the biggest fish can be swallowed up. The hardest task is making sure you grab the immediate attention of passers-by.

A simple giveaway can be effective, but I’d encourage you to be more creative with your budget. Your stand needs to tell a story.

Why don’t you create an immersive experience? LG definitely made their mark at CES 2017 with an immersive tunnel of 4K OLED curved screens representing the “nano cell” technology behind their Super UHD HDR offerings. This created not only an eye-catching stand of beautiful colours, you couldn’t avoid it; expertly achieved.

Walk the walk, talk the talk

Once you’ve got your stall set up, it may be very tempting to stay there all day and hope that everyone will come to you, especially as you have such a striking stall, but don’t be fooled. Walk around and you may even stumble across a company you haven’t heard of before or just got talking to someone who can help your business grow. It’s important to bring a formidable team to the show so they can hold down the fort while you go exploring with your business cards. It’s also a great way to assess your competition and make sure that you remain a unique voice at not only the show, but within the industry as well.

Social media

A great way to let your following know that you are showcasing at a particular trade show is to utilise the powers of social media. Why don’t you start a Facebook Live to give your followers a ‘sneak peek’ of what you are showcasing at the event? This will engage your followers and spread the word to those who may not have considered meeting with you before. Encouraging your following on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook will make sure that you aren’t invisible at an event, so at the very least use relevant hashtags, get involved in the conversation and always make sure to tag the event account.

Follow up

The event has ended but that certainly doesn’t mean that your work is done. Following up is the most crucial part to attending a trade show, or else the networking and relationships you have forged will disintegrate. Connect with those you’ve met on LinkedIn and drop them an email to get those meetings booked. This is the most secure way to help your guarantee return on investment, whether that is through leads, meetings, sales or traffic to your website. You may not see it immediately, but widening your network will inspire positive word of mouth, and that is certainly the best bit of marketing a company can achieve.

Ultimately, exhibiting at trade shows are a brilliant way to introduce your offering to a wide variety of businesses. They are expensive, so make sure you do your research before committing to either attending or exhibiting. Secure meetings beforehand, take time to make your stall striking and spread the word either on foot or on social media. There will naturally be a combination of short-term and long-term ROI from attending these shows but nonetheless when done effectively, exhibiting at shows is an invaluable method of developing your business.

Nick Braund is head of technology and innovation at PHA Media.

Further reading on trade shows

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