7 Strategies for Successfully Working a Tradeshow

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

A client recently asked how he could be more successful when working his company’s booth at an upcoming industry tradeshow.  Here are my 7 strategies for successfully working a tradeshow:

1)      Set realistic expectations
Popular tradeshows are attended by thousands of people and can be noisy, crowded and exhausting (for both attendees and exhibitors).  As a tradeshow team, set expectations for what you want to achieve and how you will measure success.  For example, collecting email addresses may be all you can do during busy, peak hours while during quieter hours, you may be able to have more in-depth conversations with people who stop by your booth.

2)      At your booth, smile and make eye contact
Greet people who pass by your booth with a smile and make eye contact.  If they don’t want to stop or aren’t interested in your product or service, they can look away or keep walking.  If they are interested in your company or even merely curious, your welcoming smile will encourage them to stop at the booth.   

3)      Use good questions to customize your conversation
Rather than launching into a sales pitch or product demo with every person who comes to your booth, some of whom are just walking aimless by or just want to pick up your free stuff, have a few questions ready to elicit information to help you tailor your conversation.  For example: what made you stop by? How do you currently handle [insert whatever your product/service is]?

4)      Know what points you want to make
Tradeshows can be similar to networking events since you may not have a lot of time to talk with people.  So think about how you will briefly introduce yourself and talk about your company’s product or service.  Prepare a few key points that will be relevant to the expected audience and then customize as needed based on their answers to your questions. 

5)      Have a clear call to action
Given the nature of the environment and schedule, it may not be possible to have in-depth conversations with many people, which makes it even more important for you to have a clear call to action for what you’d like people to do.  For example, you could collect business cards or have the person sign up or register using a mobile device in exchange for something free – like a trial period of a product, a white paper, to be entered into a drawing, etc.  In addition to signs announcing this offer, also ask, “May I invite you to…[receive our free newsletter, schedule a free demo at your office, etc.]?”

6)      Plan your exit strategy
As with networking events, one of the most challenging parts of tradeshow communication is figuring out to how end a conversation respectfully so you can talk to other people.  I favor the direct approach for both networking and tradeshows.  Make a definitive closing statement such as, “Thank you for visiting our booth and signing up for our newsletter.  I enjoyed speaking with you about [x product or service].  Please let me know if you have any questions about it once you look at the additional information. ”

Then provide them with some means of contacting you (or someone else at your company who is the more appropriate contact), such as a business card.  Review any agreements you made; for example, “I will call you next week to schedule a full product demo with your team.”  Shake hands, smile, make eye contact and then simply move on to the next person.

7)      Don’t forget to follow up
Immediately after you meet someone, if possible, or at the end of the day, make notes on whatever relevant information you remember, especially if he or she is someone who could become a warm lead or customer. 

Once the tradeshow is over, be sure to follow up in a timely manner with anyone you promised additional information to.  Call, email or make a connection on social media.  Be strategic with your time and customize the level of follow up based on your notes about the person and their potential as a customer, contact, etc.

Spend time individually and as a team to reflect on the experience: what worked well? What didn’t What would you change for next time? Then use this information in preparation for the next tradeshow, even if it’s many months away.

The next time you have to work a booth at an industry tradeshow, follow these 7 strategies so you can successfully make a connection to people and communicate your company’s value.

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com