Top 10 Tips for First-Time Trade Show Exhibitors5 min read

Did you know that around 80 percent of businesses that are doing well plan to increase their spending when it comes to live events? Trade shows and other industry events can be awesome avenues to grow your small business. It’s clear that being at a trade show gets you exposure and helps buyers find out what products you offer. However, if you have never exhibited before, it can be daunting figuring out how to get a big return on your investment. In this feature, you are going to learn the top 10 tips that you need to know to have a successful first-time trade show exhibition.

1. Choose the Right Trade Show

Whether you’re in a niche industry or one that appeals to the masses, you need to choose the trade show that fits in perfectly with your market and target customer base. Research from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) found that B2B exhibits are the number one channel in terms of value when it comes to purchasing decision by B2B buyers. Always look for trade shows known for having high foot traffic and double-check that marquee brands in your industry are also going to be there as exhibitors or visitors. These two elements add credibility to the trade show you’re considering.

2. Create a Checklist of Things You Need to Do

As the show dates approach, create a plan that covers all of the things that you need to do in order for the event to be a success. Organization is a critical aspect of being successful as a first-time trade show exhibitor. Choose a project manager from your team that is known for organizing events on time and within budget to ensure success. It’s best to have a checklist for each day that you will be exhibiting so that you can manage your tasks properly.

3. Stay Close to the Trade Show Location

The last thing you want to do is carry tons of stuff with you to a remote trade show venue compared to where your hotel is. Choose a hotel that is close to the venue (or stay in a room within the venue, if it’s a hotel) so you can coordinate easier. This minimizes tension and stress when you and your colleagues are setting up your company’s exhibit. Make sure to consider using portable trade show displays to make transport and setup simpler, no matter if you’re staying nearby or far away.

Think of your first-time exhibition as you showcasing art. Your booth and signage will act as your canvas to present your small business to potential buyers who are coming to the exhibit. Work with your marketing team to decide how your booth and exhibit will look and make sure that your exhibit’s branding is in line with your company’s current image.

5. Look Unflappable

It’s really important for the staff at your exhibit to exude an air of professionalism and calm. Even if the trade show is stressful and tough, your team should always be smiling and greeting each and every visitor who walks past. Studies have shown that it is difficult for someone to frown when you are smiling at them. Tell your team to smile in an authentic way but to be sure to do it regularly during the day in order to appear approachable to visitors.

6. Assign a Budget for Signs and Banners

The visual language of your trade show will be mainly through signs and banners. You should assign a budget that goes with the look and feel of what you want to achieve. For example, if you are a B2B company targeting potential clients in the automotive industry, you can choose from large vinyl banners that grab attention because your competitors will be thinking about eye-catching designs for their exhibitions.

7. Make Your Exhibit Comfortable

You should make your exhibit inviting for people to hang around by adding chairs and lounge space that encourages people to sit down. You could also offer complimentary refreshments and snacks that visitors can take while they (ideally) look through your marketing materials such as brochures and flyers. Other unique ideas to make visitors at ease include adding tables and a pop-up shop.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to be Innovative at Your Exhibit

One of the best examples of innovation is the Museum of Ice Cream. This museum used branded rooms to create fun, artistic installations around ice cream and dessert themes. First-time exhibitors should think outside of the box when it comes to showing at a trade show. Look for new ways to make banners and signage look innovative in your exhibit by doing what your competitors won’t do. Experiential innovation at your exhibit is more likely to capture the attention of millennial B2B buyers who are at the trade show.

9. Don’t Blow the Budget On Promotional Items

First-time trade show exhibitors should tread with caution when it comes to promotional items. Some B2B visitors will expect promotional items such as keyrings and notepads while others might take your promotional items and throw them away. Go for promotional items that connect with your brand and create value for your visitors so that when they leave the exhibit, they remember you. It’s all about doing this with a budget that makes sense, not one that will negatively impact your bottom line.

10. Offer Coupon Codes and Deals

Take advantage of seeing people face-to-face at the trade show to offer coupon codes for your products depending on the nature of your business. All types of customers, whether they are B2C or B2B, love deals and discounts. Create FOMO by offering coupon codes or discounts that are only redeemable during the trade show at your booth. You might see a boost in sales depending on the time of year of the trade show and the products that you are selling to buyers.

Bonus Tip: Stay Powered Up

Always make sure that your team’s smartphones are fully charged during the day to make communication effective and to take notes.

Making a Good First Impression

These great tips will help you have a successful exhibit for the first time as long as you take care of all of the small details that come together at trade shows. You only have one chance to make a good first impression–use these tips to help you achieve it!

About the Author

Leslie Pierce is the VP of Marketing for Half Price Banners. They specialize in the sale of custom vinyl banners, displays, signs and more.  She has a demonstrated history of working in the wholesale industry and has been with her company for over 10 years. She is skilled in luxury goods, sales, retail, store management, and sales operations.