Trinkets & Trash: A Tradeshow Survival Guide

Trinkets & Trash: A Tradeshow Survival Guide

In all my years in communications and public relations, I must have been to hundreds, if not thousands, of tradeshows and conferences. I have attended them as a delegate, as a presenter, and working the trade floor.

It’s in the booth that the rubber meets the road. That is where the comms work you’ve done around your company’s brand is proven true or false. In an instant, customers will form an opinion that will last years. If it’s a good impression, they will let a few colleagues know.  If it’s a bad experience, they will tell everyone they’ve ever met not to do business with you, then jump on social media and make sure the rest of the world is also well aware!

On that note, have a read of these handy tips for when you’ve been tasked with a major tradeshow.

Train you booth staff

So much prep goes into the look and feel of your booth, apparel and materials, that we often neglect the very people who will be representing our organization. Few have the background or experience that you do, so there is a natural tendency to think that “it’s easy,” or “they’ll do just fine.” That might be true if you’re hiring specifically for your tradeshow and have screened the candidates for people that are outgoing, personable and can sound intelligent when faced with detailed customer concerns. Not a bad option if you have a big budget, but most of us rely on a team of regular, day-to-day employees. It’s a great option, because no one knows your product or service better. The down side is, they may not always be the ideal spokespeople. The good news is that a bit of training can help mitigate any downside and ensure that they are engaging public speakers.

Share key messages and Q&As

Now that they are ready and willing to connect with potential customers, arm them with the information they need to make a sale, register an appointment, or whatever measurement is most meaningful for your business. Give them key message suggestions, but encourage them to put them in their own words. It will make them easier to remember, and will sound more natural than a script. Also, anticipate what people may ask. Is your company dealing with a particular issue in the media? Are there any legacy perceptions that should be addressed? Are there any new features that might need explaining? Get ahead of any touchy subjects so you don’t throw your front-line staff under the bus, and make sure they know how to contact people who can answer their questions. It’s okay not to have an answer, but you always need a response.

Location, location, location

The most basic advice anyone could give you is to find the right booth space. High traffic areas increase your potential reach exponentially. Unfortunately, your biggest enemy in this process isn’t a competitor, it isn’t the company putting on the show … it’s you. Well, maybe not you specifically, but your company or process often grinds slower than everyone else’s. At least it feels that way. Booking dates come and go, and your management is still sitting on the fence about whether you’ll participate. Once you get the green light to book it, you take the table scraps instead of the entrée. It’s okay, you can work around it, but your job is made much easier with prime real estate.

The sooner you get the logistics out of the way, the sooner you can concentrate on what really matters at a tradeshow or conference – the people. Equip them with what they need to succeed, and the experience will be better for everyone.

Have you been a part of an exceptional tradeshow team? Is there something that was key to your success? Let us know in the comments below

photo credit: entry via photopin (license)


Published by

Ashley Brown, APR

I have seen and done it all, on large and small scales, including communications planning, event coordination, print production, digital presence management, media relations, and more. Bringing in an outside perspective, with an objective set of eyes to pour over your organization's communications programs is considered best practice and yields actionable results. I gather anecdotal and empirical evidence to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your current communications programs, and make suggestions about how to improve your planning and execution processes, as well as your communications products and materials.

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