By: Travis E. Blythe
In an earlier post, I outlined what I thought were the three main steps or stages involved in a trade show conference. In this section, I am going to talk about the first step. This is normally called the “Planning Stage”, and hopefully you don’t wait until the last-minute to schedule your conference or trade show. With that being said, the planning stage is one of the most important stages. It is here, you create the awareness of your company being in attendance and where people can find you at the conference.
Okay, you signed up to be an exhibitor at the best trade show of the year. You sold the powers that be, this conference is the “be all to end all” conferences your company needs to be at and needs to have an exhibitor/booth space. Everyone is usually skeptical (I mean the CEO/President/Owners) because they think they are throwing money away and no one really works a booth or they can’t measure the ROI. Well, you haven’t met me or my tactics for trade show marketing yet and I can usually always bring home some business. One of the first items of business is to make sure you post on your website exactly what conferences you plan on attending for the year. This is important, especially if you have a strong client interaction with your website, some clients may see you going to a particular event they didn’t know about and will thank you. The second step is to get the attendee list once you pay your money for the exhibit space.
Now that you have the attendee list, item number one is to send out the “Email Blast” to all the attendee’s telling them exactly where they can find you and what prizes you have to offer to get them to stop by. Make sure you entice with a big-ticket item (something they think they can win) and an awesome give away item (like a cool, hip t-shirt). Just don’t SPAM the email though, address them individually and don’t let them know you mass emailed it. There are several programs out there that do this. If not, then send them all separately if you have the resources. With today’s Social Media taking off the way that it is, you should try to look up all the people you want to target, or all the attendee’s you want business from on Linkedin and Twitter. Send them invites to connect or follow them. I would also include in the email ways they can find your company on social media. Engage them to connect with you.
When you have the proper time to plan for the conference, study the schedule and whether you will have time to entertain clients. Find out what current clients or potential clients are going and set up dinners. There is nothing worse than to arrive to a conference and have nothing lined up or trying to do it the same day. Most everyone will have plans and you will end up waiting for everyone to return before you can engage and entertain them.
The next part of the planning stage, which is important is packing up all the materials you will need to be successful. The number one item is obviously the business card. Make sure you have all of your company’s literature, a nice 1-page graphic of the prize you are giving away, a bowl for business cards, business card holders, pens, and what I like to call the contact sheet (for those who forget or run out of business cards). Because I never trusted the other sales reps who attended the trade shows with me to be as responsible as I am, I usually brought all the stuff with me even though some of it is packed inside the booth already. Somehow the trade show booth fiery always lost or broke something. Also, don’t forget to have all the “swag” shipped to your conference so you actually have stuff to give away.
One last food for thought is to make sure you have booked your travel. Scout ahead of time to see if you need transportation from the airport (if flying) or if there is a shuttle to conference site. Show the boss you saved money by booking 2-3 weeks out. Same for the hotels, most conferences offer a conference rate to stay at the hotel where the conference is located or one relatively close. I understand there maybe cheaper places to stay just down the road, but remember you have to be traveling back and forth sometimes and it can be a pain if you are 5 miles away. Especially when you are lugging around supplies, laptops or want to change your clothes when the exhibit hall closes for the day.
If you follow these steps, you should be very prepared for your conference or trade show and ready to conquer!
Enjoy your conference and safe travels!
Next up Trade Show Marketing 1.2 – The Show