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Getting the best out of Trade Shows

Trade show exhibitors often complain, post the event, it was not worth the effort and that it cost more than it was worth the exhibit. That can be true if the trade show is poorly organised or not the right fit for the market and the products on offer.

However, a trade show, like any business activity, will only return profits if the exhibitor puts planning and effort into making the company and products stand out. Here are some simple tips to help to get the best from trade exhibitions.


Think hard about the message that you want to send to potential customers, which will show visitors what you do at a glance, attract them into the booth and even better, make them want to buy from you. Is there a new product or service that stands out or offers a unique point of difference from your competitors? How can it best be portrayed and displayed to get people to stop and look at what you have and enquire.

Strategies you can use include pre-show promotions to key customers and potential buyers to entice them to visit your booth.

Make it live

Key products have to be highlighted in a central point of the booth to grab customers’ attention and make them stop and look. Floodlights, moving displays, continuous on-stand demonstrations and presentations with lots of pizzazz and enthusiasm always make people stop and show interest.


Special pricing or special offers work only if the decision maker is present there and if you can get commitments there and then on the stand. Things to think about include credit card facilities, finance applications and order sheets. If you are from interstate and can sell your stock to distributors or stand visitors and leave with forward orders then the trade show has probably more than paid for itself.

Stand design

Clever use of layout and design can make a stand look great even on a small budget. Use lots of light and colour, avoid clutter, use simple stand out professional signage and make the stand easy to access. One of the worst things you can do is to build counters around the stand, which makes it hard for people to step in and talk to you.

Handling out brochures willy-nilly is a waste of time, as they go into the show bag never to be looked at again. Avoid putting brochures on the stand frontage. Instead, put them at the back or out of site so that people have to come in to get them. Only hand a brochure out after you have qualified their interest, ability to make buying decisions and have their details so that you can contact them. If you don’t get the contact details then you have probably wasted your time.

Stand demeanour

Don’t just sit there. Nothing looks worse than a bunch of reps sitting around looking bored or talking to each other and ignoring the passing trade. If you want people to come into the booth be active in approaching them and inviting them to stop and talk. This can quadruple the number of people that you talk to and make your booth appear busy and interesting, which makes other people stop. The availability of sweets, coffee and water can entice them to stay and talk while chairs and tables should be used for customer meetings rather than sales rep lounges.

Trade shows mean a lot of talking and a lot of coffee and nothing turns customer off more than bad breathe. Always provide mints and breath freshners for your team and have beroca and paracetamol on standby for the inevitable hangovers.

Seminar Presentations

If you can present a seminar, do it. Seminars attract people to trade shows. A well-presented seminar will build credibility for you, your business and your brand and always bring people to your stand to ask questions or to see what you have. The key to show seminars is to never make them a sale pitch or product specific.

You can use products or product specific information carefully to emphasise or to show a concept but keep it generic or attendees will feel resentful and like they have been misled, especially if they have paid to attend. Instead, seminars should present knowledge, tips and generic ideas that will enhance and simplify cleaning, lower costs or to improve safety.

Follow up quickly

This where many exhibitors fail in getting value from trade shows. The leads have to be qualified on the stand, divided up into categories, logged into a control sheet and followed up as soon as the trade show is finished. If more than a week has passed then buyer interest has waned, they have probably forgotten about you in the blur of exhibitors and your competitor may have snapped up the opportunity.

Trade show participation is costly with exhibition costs, freight, fares, accommodation, time and wear & tear on merchandise and equipment. If you treat the trip as a holiday rather than a business opportunity you may have a good time but you will lose rather than win.

Trade shows are great opportunities to network, to show innovation, exchange ideas and to grow your business but you will only get out of them what you are prepared to put in an effort, imagination and attitude. Overall, you are there to generate business and find new customers rather than just standing around showing products and partying afterwards,

And when it is over, follow-up and turn those inquiries into opportunities and opportunities into customers. Only then will you realize the value of a trade show.

Brian Clark
He is an industry consultant and principal of Janitech Australasia
Source: InClean

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