While trade shows have their roots in Middle Eastern bazaars thousands of years ago, modern trade shows started in the 19th century. With all that history, there are many proven best practices that vastly increase your chances for trade show success.
Here are 11 best exhibiting practices you can follow, and how Event Suite’s trade-show specific project management technology, with CTSM-infused best practices, can further help you succeed.
Trade Show Best Practice #1: Set Clear Goals
Define specific, measurable goals for your trade show participation. Whether it's generating leads, increasing brand awareness, launching new products, or building industry relationships, having clear objectives will guide your strategies and what you measure to determine your success. It’s okay to have different goals at different shows, because your company situation may vary in different markets.
How Event Suite Helps You Set Clear Goals:
Event Suite has a Strategy Tab that lets you not only assign goals per event, but also prioritize and weigh each goal. After the show and later into the sales process, you can quickly create aggregated reports on how well you achieved your show goals.
Trade Show Best Practice #2: Plan Ahead
Start preparing for the trade show well in advance. Develop a comprehensive timeline that includes tasks such as booth design, promotional material creation, staff training, travel arrangements, and pre-show marketing initiatives.
Give yourself more time for planning your participation at trade shows where you:
How Event Suite Helps You Plan Ahead:
Event Suite combines all the upcoming trade show tasks for you and your team into one single workflow. Delegate tasks at the click of a button and oversee them through completion. Your teammates can quickly update or complete tasks in a single click. Time-stamped assignments, due dates, automated status reports, and scheduled reminders push projects towards completion while creating accountability.
Trade Show Best Practice #3: Select the Right Shows and Spaces
Select trade shows and events that will advance your company’s business, marketing, and sales goals. Choose shows whose audiences match your best customers, partners, and influencers, and that have a history of delivering qualified leads and higher return on investment. They may be industry shows, vertical market shows, and national, regional, local, vendor, and international shows. Have a system for approving new shows to your schedule, and for purging shows that no longer perform or fit your objectives. Scale up or down your booth size at each show based on your overall budget, and how well that show aligns with your marketing objectives and performs against goals.
How Event Suite Helps You Select the Right Shows and Spaces:
Event Suite collects and reports all your show results data in one place, with auto-generated graphs that let you quickly visualize their relative performance. You can also instantly drill down to see performance by many criteria, such as event type, region, or date ranges. Event Suite also reports on how your shows performed against your pre-set goals, letting you rank your current shows by effectiveness.
Trade Show Best Practice #4: Manage Your Budget
Because trade shows are often the largest segment of your marketing budget, and involve uncommon words like Material Handling and Lead Retrieval, trade show expenses come under greater scrutiny by management and finance departments. Exhibitors succeed by prioritizing spending where it most directly helps persuade buyers, avoiding late fees and rush charges, proving a satisfactory ROI, and carefully tracking actual expenses compared to budget.
How Event Suite Helps You Manage Your Budget:
Event Suite saves time by letting users reuse event budget data already in the system, such as instantly creating a detailed budget for the following year's show. You can allow your vendors access to add estimates or deliver invoices, increasing efficiency and eliminating costly administrative time. Generate on-demand reports or get snapshots of dynamic vs. actual reports based in real-time by multiple criteria, such as by budget bucket, account number, timeframes, and more. Instantly identify which budget items have most exceeded planned spending. Manage all your expenses from a single dashboard. Approve, schedule, and pay with a single click. All of your actions are time and date stamped and immediately reconciled with the rest of your books and updated in all of your reporting. And then export the reports into multiple popular formats, such as pdfs or Excel.
Trade Show Best Practice #5: Create an Attractive Exhibit
Design a visually appealing and inviting booth that stands out from the competition. Design a space that facilitates achieving your trade show goals. Use compelling graphics and interactive elements to capture attention and communicate your brand effectively. Ensure that your booth layout facilitates easy traffic flow and encourages engagement.
How Event Suite Helps You Create an Attractive Exhibit:
Event Suite vastly improves your communications flow with your Exhibit House, making it far easier to manage and order your trade show exhibit and graphic properties. You can more easily choose the right assets to best fit the specific audience at every show.
Plus, the vast amount of time Event Suite saves you managing the administrative side of your trade show program, you can instead shift towards exhibit design.
Trade Show Best Practice #6: Select and Train Your Booth Staff
Choose booth staffers who have a positive attitude about staffing. Invest in thorough training for your booth staff. They should be knowledgeable about your products or services, capable of delivering consistent messaging, and skilled in engaging and qualifying leads. Train them on effective communication, active listening, lead capture techniques, and handling objections.
How Event Suite Helps You Select and Train Your Booth Staff:
Too often your time spent communicating with booth staffers is limited to schedules, show location details, flights, hotels, car rentals, and booth attire. Event Suite lets you manage those admin functions in a fraction of the time, with workflows, centralized data and confirmations. You can assign booth staffers to a show based on their individual roles and needs. You can generate show packets, even personalized by staffer, in a few clicks.
Thus, with Event Suite, you can finally shift your limited booth staff communication time from badgering and pestering to more productive booth staff training.
Trade Show Best Practice #7: Utilize Pre-Show Promotions
Utilize various marketing channels to generate buzz and drive traffic to your booth before the trade show. Send targeted email and direct mail campaigns, leverage social media platforms, create teaser content, offer exclusive incentives, and engage with potential attendees online. Choose promotions that will matter to your target audience both professionally and personally, and that will memorably reinforce your brand or benefits.
How Event Suite Helps You Utilize Pre-Show Promotions:
The vast amount of time Event Suite saves you managing the administrative side of your trade show program, you can instead shift towards campaigns and promotions that generate more leads and improve your trade show ROI. You can also use our Storefront product to set up a branded online store for your field people to order branded giveaways for their local and vendor trade shows.
Trade Show Best Practice #8: Engage Attendees with Activities
Develop engaging activities and experiences to draw attendees into your booth. Offer product demonstrations, interactive presentations, games, contests, or hands-on experiences that allow visitors to interact with your brand. Ask for meetings ahead of the show. Engage attendees in conversations to understand their needs and demonstrate how your products or services can meet them.
How Event Suite Helps You Engage Attendees with Activities:
The vast amount of time Event Suite saves you managing the administrative side of your trade show program, you can instead shift towards creating engaging activities that better communicate your features and benefits to booth visitors.
Trade Show Best Practice #9: Build Relationships
Trade shows offer opportunities for networking and building industry relationships. Engage with other exhibitors, attendees, industry influencers, and potential partners. Attend networking events, participate in industry forums, and establish connections that can lead to collaborations and business opportunities.
How Event Suite Helps You Build Relationships:
The vast amount of time Event Suite saves you managing the administrative side of your trade show program, you can instead shift towards building industry relationships. You can turn off your laptop and leave your hotel room to attend networking and other at-show events.
Trade Show Best Practice #10: Better Manage & Follow-Up Leads
Train your booth staffers to rank leads by quality, and to capture lead quality and comments with each lead. Promptly follow up with leads collected during the trade show. Have a web-based CRM or marketing automation program to import the leads into, and tag leads by the show and year. Personalize your follow-up communications, provide additional information, address specific needs or concerns, and nurture leads towards conversion. Get top management to visibly mandate lead follow up.
How Event Suite Helps You Better Manage and Follow-Up Leads:
ExhibitForce offers Media Suite, a lead retrieval system that ties directly into Event Suite and works with your smart phones and iPads. Your booth staffers can capture leads and immediately send follow-up emails with links to brochures. You not only quickly fulfill leads, but can also track prospects who download your content for more efficient sales follow-up.
You can also import your trade show leads into popular marketing automation platforms such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot.
Trade Show Best Practice #11: Measure and Analyze Results
Track and measure the success of your trade show efforts. Monitor key metrics such as leads generated, sales conversions, booth traffic, engagement levels, and ROI. Analyze the data to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. On an individual show level, track performance by each booth staffer, and how well promotions and activities engaged attendees. Use these insights to refine your strategies for future trade shows, and to justify your program to management.
How Event Suite Helps You Measure and Analyze Results:
Event Suite gives you the power to collect and report from one place whatever your “R” is, be it Return on Investment, or Return on Objective, or Return on Engagement. Graph, view, and analyze lead data by event, value, type, and rating to quantify your efforts and drive your ROI. Rank shows by how well they score against your pre-show goals. See what post-show fulfillment content was most popular. Drill down on any criteria by custom timeframes and instantly get new color graphs for easier analysis and reporting.
Implement Trade Show Best Practices More Easily
Following trade show best practices takes skill and time. You can learn the skills needed to maximize your trade show program, but unfortunately, too often run out of time to actually execute the best practices you want to do. Valuable activities like booth staff training, pre-show and at-show promotions, and lead follow up are often the first activities to get sacrificed when time runs out.
With Event Suite, you can implement best practices that not only help you perform better planning and measurement, but also reclaim the time needed to better execute on the marketing tasks of trade shows. See for yourself what’s possible – click here to request a free trial of Event Suite.