Trade shows can intimidate anyone new to exhibit marketing, but the best course is to dive into the pool. The following tips — from the shallow end of the pool — will get you started. When it’s time to swim laps or do a swan dive, go to Trade Show and Event Tips for 49 articles guaranteed to turn you into Michael Phelps (or Mark Spitz for those of us with gray hair).
10 Tips for any Trade Show Novice:
- A trade show is neither a vacation nor a death sentence. Although it may feel like a death sentence during tear-down.
- Be nice to the labor. They can solve most of your problems or create massive headaches. Try to follow the Golden Rule . . . until they piss you off. When they do, contact your I&D labor provider or show management. And remember that the laborers in your booth didn’t write the show hall rules. If you disagree with the rules, contact your I&D labor provider or show management but don’t take it out on the guy or gal assembling your display.
- Breath mints are more valuable than gold or platinum at a trade show.
- Comfortable shoes are more valuable than breath mints, unless you are wearing comfortable shoes but chatting with someone who clearly needs a 3 lb. breath mint.
- Rule of Three — This is a sad but true fact regarding labor at most trade shows. If three people are assigned to your booth, one person will be a star, one person will be average, one person will be a dufus. Hire nine people and you are guaranteed to have three stars and three dufasses. Sometimes you get lucky, and the ratio works in your favor. Sometimes not (I could name show halls where this is almost guaranteed to happen, but I’d have to check under my hood every time I start my car).
- No two shows are the same. Think of each show as a first date. Look your best and do your homework about the show, the attendees, and your competitors.
- Every exhibitor has a “Joe.” He drinks too much, he gambles too much, and he wanders around too much. He’s like the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, constantly circumnavigating the show hall. About a half a dozen times a day, you’ll wonder what happened to Joe. Five minutes ago he was sucking down his third espresso, leaning on the counter, and ogling anything with two X chromosomes. Suddenly he’s gone . . . AGAIN.
- Be ruthless about evaluating your show graphics. Everything else is secondary. Replace them BEFORE they need to be replaced.
- I Bet You 50 Bucks You’ll Forget One of the Following: wire management for the exhibit, cleaning supplies, business cards, belt (happens to me at least twice year . . . two belts in Las Vegas = one mortgage payment), lip balm (again, crazy, ridiculously expensive in Vegas), phone charger, or your moral compass.
- FINALLY, work with professionals, whether it’s a graphic designer, an exhibit consultant, or a certified trade show manager. Trade show exhibit marketing is a craft learned the hard way through trial and error. It’s easy to burn through a lot of money before you finally figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t stumble through a year or two of mistakes when you can rely on experts who can save you time, money, and embarrassment.
Bonus Tips: For goodness sake, get some fresh air and a little sunshine once in awhile! Your mood will improve by a 1000 percent. And just once, put on the workout gear that you bring to every show and repack (unused) in your suitcase. Exercise is healthy.
— Mel White