5 Tips for Exhibiting at Trade Shows

February 15, 2006, 1:32 PM EST

1. Make Your Message Consistent
Your trade show exhibit is just one element of your company’s brand; therefore, it must match your other marketing and promotional materials. “Lots of people make it completely separate and don’t pay attention to brand language,” says Michelle Carey-Schmidt, vice president of MICE Displayworks in Fremont, California. “That’s a missed opportunity to reinforce what you’ve already done.” Use the same colors, imagery, and taglines, and make sure both your graphics and message are clean and simple. And unless you’re Nike or Microsoft, don’t assume people know what your company does. Use your display to state your company’s purpose.

2. Forget Freebies
Branded tchotchkes and T-shirts might seem like good giveaways, but in general they’re a waste of money and energy. “It’s my personal belief that if you gave away nothing it wouldn’t affect the outcome of the show,” says Jim Kelley, creative director of Sierra Group Exhibits in Grass Valley, California. “The people who take those things could care less; they take something because it’s free. People who are there for serious purchasing are not there to pick up a pen.”

3. Clear the Clutter
“Don’t put too much in a small space,” warns Warren Lopez, vice president of sales for Boston-based PlanView Exhibits. For your trade show space to attract traffic, it should be inviting and easily maneuverable. Remove obstacles like big counters at the edge of the space; instead, put them at an angle near the back of your space. “Have a free-flowing, wandering design,” suggests Carey-Schmidt. “Don’t create a barrier where someone almost has to ask permission to step into your space.” And use proper body language: “You’re not guarding your booth, you’re welcoming someone into it,” she says.

4. Do Preshow Promotion
“Most companies fail to do proper promotion for trade shows,” says Michael Bandy, president of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association in Chicago. “You can have the best-looking booth, and best-trained staff, but if nobody knows you’re going to be there, it’s difficult [to succeed].” While it’s the show organizer’s job to get attendees into the hall, it’s your job to get them into your booth. Bandy recommends multipart promotions, like direct mail campaigns and email blasts, to announce your participation to key clients and prospects.

5. Know Whether to Rent or Own
When it comes to trade show booths, exhibitors have the option of renting or owning their displays. According to Sierra Group Exhibits’ Kelley, if you’re going to go to three or more trade shows per year, it’s more cost-effective to purchase your booth. But if you’re only planning to attend a couple, you’re better off renting. Another consideration: You might want to rent so you can easily change the graphics, colors, and size of your booth.

Erika Rasmusson Janes

This story originally appeared in the September/October 2004 issue of the BiZBash Event Style Reporter.

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