Trade shows, conferences, exhibits, expos, fairs… No title can connote the importance of these multi-day educational extravaganzas. Whether you’re an exhibitor or an attender, speaker or listener, you have the unique opportunity to learn about and contribute to the greater conversation taking place in your industry. However, this opportunity does come with a hitch– trade show success does not favor the unprepared. At Covalent Media Group, we are especially excited for the upcoming Affiliate Summit. In the spirit of the trade show buzz, we wanted to give you our 11 best tips to review before your conference or exhibit in order to make the most of your experience!
You wouldn’t go into your wedding night wondering what the centerpieces look like and question whether anyone remembered those darn tablecloths. You shouldn’t wait until the trade show to see how the ensemble comes together– do a practice run before packing your materials! What works? What looks naked? Is anything messy? Does it look good from multiple angles? Consider what works and what doesn’t. A prepared, aesthetically pleasing setup goes a long way, and will protect against that sinking feeling when you realize you forgot something essential.
Working video content into your exhibit or follow-up will be an eye-catching conversation starter. It also shows that you understand the importance of creativity and video marketing right now. Talk the talk… walk the walk… Film the walk.
Prepare generic follow-up materials beforehand. This way you can spend more time refining and specifying instead of crafting. This is a huge timesaver and you’ll be thankful you prepared.
Stacks on stacks… of business cards, that is. Develop a collection system in advance or else run the risk of having a substantial portion of the Vistaprint inventory slowly overtaking your wallet, bag, life. One idea I love is designating one spot for contacts which will require an immediate follow-up or all relate to one project and another spot for cards that demand saving or a LinkedIn connect but no immediate follow-up.
Another business card strategy I love is to write a quick note on the back of the business card after an exchange or later during downtime. Writing down topics of discussion and person’s appearance will both be a huge help and revisiting conversations will aid in remembering them.
Bring breath mints for obvious purposes. My personal favorite is Life Savers!
If your company sends multiple people to a trade show, you’ll find it helpful to have a groupchat on a messenger app like GroupMe or Slack to communicate if you all part ways. An app will help include the iPhone hating hipsters.
It’s impossibly difficult to casually, confidently shake hands and take out a business card with one hand tightly gripping a plate of salad (darn you, resolution) while the other hand manhandles some pamphlets. Before leaving your hotel room, consider how you will carry a notebook, pens and promotional materials that you’ll pick up throughout the day, and maybe opt for one plate of food at a time.
Yes, you should promote yourself and your company but at the end of the day you need to make two-way connections. Listen as much as you speak, and consider your audience before delivering the standard elevator pitch about yourself. To quote one of my favorite mid-century self-help writers and speakers Dale Carnegie, “you can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get those people interested in you”.
While it’s obviously essential to plan out the seminars you’d like to attend, speakers you’d like to meet, and meetings you’d like to, well, participate in, you have to be open to the un-inevitable. Some of your most important connections may force you to change some plans. There are educational opportunities everywhere, and do not be afraid to go against the herd!
Try to avoid spending the whole trade show with the same people who you’ve met up with for the past three conferences. Maintain those relationships while continually challenging yourself to really get out of your comfort zone and meet many new people!