9 Tips for exhibiting at a trade show for the first time

Trade shows are one of the best ways to get exposure for your business, and a great opportunity to network too. Yet many companies feel daunted at the prospect of exhibiting at a trade show for the first time.

Having attended dozens of shows myself – as a visitor and exhibitor, and now as an event organiser with our Meet the Manufacturer show, I’ve picked up quite a few insights along the way. So if you are exhibiting at a trade show for the first time, don’t be worried, they’re a piece of cake once you have these tips at hand…

tips for exhibiting at a trade show
Trade Shows are a great way to get exposure for your business

The look of your stand should be your top priority

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but a little pre-planning is essential. Making sure you know the exact dimensions of the stand, including the height of the walls, will mean no nasty surprises when you arrive. Try mocking something up in your office or studio beforehand too, using tape on the floor to mark out the space. And plan where everything is going to go.

When it comes to display, less is more. Visitors will want to see the quality of your products and get a feel for what you do. It’s not a shop, and you don’t need every item in every colour.

Make sure to leave enough floorspace for visitors to fit in, and use the walls for displaying your best product at eye level. Think about using colour on the walls too – when everyone is in a sea of white shell scheme a vivid pink wall will get you noticed.

top tips for exhibiting at a trade show
Use the walls of your stand to display products at eye level

Promote your attendance at the show in advance

Send emails or personal invitations to your customers a few weeks in advance to let them know that you are going to be at the fair. Take this opportunity to tell them which stand you are in, and ideally try and get them to fix an appointment with you.

Also use this opportunity to reach out to buyers and press you’d like to meet by inviting them see you there and sending them something that gives a small taster of what you will be showing.

And don’t forget to send a reminder a few days before the show to make sure your guests have it in their diary – schedule this in advance in case you don’t have time to do it in the days running up to the show

Be Social

Find out what hashtag the event is using and tag in the show in your social media posts in order to make it easy for them to shout about you as an exhibitor.
This is also a good way of making the most of a wider audience that you can reach, above and beyond those already in your network.

Keep up with a few social media posts during the show too if you can – photos and videos of your booth looking enticing may be spotted by someone at the show following the hashtag and help you connect with someone that may not otherwise have come your way.

visiting at a trade show
Planning in advance to get the most out of your attendance

Produce a press release to maximise your exposure

Make sure you have an up to date press release to coincide with your attendance at the show. Give a copy to the event’s press office and let them have high res images of your products to hand in case they get any requests from journalists in the run up to the show. You’d be amazed at how many exhibitors don’t take advantage of this – it could be a great way to get an edge over any competitors at the show.

Smile and look happy

The most successful exhibitors at our shows are always the ones that keep smiling non-stop for two days, even when their feet are killing them. Think about your body language and what signals you are giving off if you’re standing there cross-armed and looking bored. Be welcoming and friendly at all times, and chat to as many people as you possibly can.

If you’re a shy, creative type then consider roping in a friend or family member who is more outgoing than you to do the talking at the front – but make sure you’ve de-briefed them beforehand so they know their stuff and what they should be saying.

exhibiting at a trade fair
Look happy on your stand and new customers will come your way!

Giveaways or demonstrations on the stand are a great ice-breaker

Running a special promotion just for the event can be a great conversation opener, as well as a good way of gathering the contact details of passers-by. But please, no tacky printed pens/USB sticks/and other Chinese-made giveaways!

And some sort of interactive display is always a great option for attracting people to your stand. Exhibitors at our Meet the Manufacturer show have had great success by bringing along a staff member from their factory that can make something on the stand on the day – this makes for great social media coverage too (see point about above being social).

Have a plan for capturing the details of leads

Many shows now supply a mobile app which you can use to scan visitors that come to your stand. You can make notes within the app and then download a spreadsheet with everyone’s details when you’ve left the show – beats lots of loose business cards that might get mislaid in the panic to pack up. It also saves you typing everyone’s details in too. And while you’re at it – make sure you take enough business cards yourself so you don’t run out mid-show.

exhibiting at a trade show
Networking with other exhibitors should be an important part of your trade show strategy

It’s about networking, not just selling

Use your time at the show to make new business connections as well as to find new customers. Chat to other exhibitors – you never know when a future collaboration could be in the pipeline. And don’t dismiss those that aren’t just buyers. Trade shows are attended by the press, bloggers and other influential people that could benefit your business by increased exposure or connections. So seize every opportunity and don’t just think of it in terms of revenue.
And if there’s an after-show party for exhibitors make sure that you attend with lots of business cards – the social time when everyone is relaxing is often when the best business is done.

Follow up with everyone you met after the show

It’s important to send an email within a couple of days of the event thanking those that came to your stand while you’re fresh in their minds. Keep in touch but don’t be too pushy. It can often take months or years for some trade show leads to develop into a business relationship, so don’t be disheartened if orders don’t materialise straightway.

I hope you found this article useful. If you’d like to print off a handy PDF of these tips then please fill in your email below and we’ll send one to you.