As with all industries, tradeshows play a vital role, and when used properly can bring tremendous value to your company by attracting exactly the cutomers you are looking for. Tradeshows allow you to see what's happening in the industry and to be seen.

They gives companies the opportunity to examine recent market trends and gather market intelligence. Because tradeshows are aimed at only at businesses, your ability to secure large transactions is greater. Tradeshows aimed at consumers or where consumers are also allowed to attend should be largely avoided.

There is no getting away from the fact that tradeshows are expensive, and sometimes extremely expensive for exhibitors and even just buyers.

They involve a significant marketing expense for companies taking part. Costs typically include booth rental, and booth design and construction as well as all the other elements involved such as marketing collateral and giveaway gifts. Then there is the cost, telecommunications and being online, as well as travel and  accommodation. Then there are costs for services, such as electricity, cleaning the booth, and handling and removal of material.

It is precisely because costs are so high that companies and individuals - whether exhibitors or buyers/visitors - must aim to secure the maximum advantage from taking part in a show.

Tradeshow Tips:
Tradeshows are a mixture of company-wide strategy and low-level details that can be easily overlooked, so make sure you use a checklist to keep on top of everything. You don't ever want to get to a tradeshow and remember on the first day that you forgot the computer cables.
Set your goal for the tradeshow. Think big - there are many benefits of attending a show, but you must set a main objective. That is not just for strategic planning purposes, but will also enable you to decide after the tradeshow how much of a success it was from your company's point of view. 
Did you:

  • Complete a sale on the tradeshow floor
  • Secure a minimum of 20 genuine prospects
  • Talk with 10 industry leaders
  • Find 10 good recruiting prospects
  • Ask potential customers about specific issues in order to get market information

Here are some other things that you should do:

  1. Book a seller presentation - Many shows allow sellers to give presentations, sometimes at a cost. Try to always do this. Even if only 20 people come to your talk, look at it this way: you get the chance to speak to 20 people in depth for 45 minutes. Compare that with talking to 100 people at your booth for one minute or less. This is an excellent way to make a few sales just from the presentation.

  2. Decide what your main message is - and stick to it - Your booth is like your website home page - you have just a few seconds to persuade a potential buyer  to stop at your booth. Your message must be on the booth and it must have the effect of intriguing people and making them stop. Reduce your message to one short, sharp sentence.

  3. Choose a booth well - In property, it's all about location, location, location. Guess what? The same applies at tradeshows. Booths are snapped up fast - remember you are copeting with sharks.  A booth next to a bathroom is good because everyone will be heading that way several times a day. A booth near the front doors is also prime, while a booth near the center of the hall is better than the ends. And a booth at the ends of an aisle can be excellent because that gives you a “corner” which means more foot traffic and your stuff can spill out and attract attention.

  4. Your banner and handouts must make an impression - Get a professional graphics company that knows all about the printing process to do this for you. They have the knowledge and the expertise. Leave plenty of time to get the job completed.

  5. Make sure your booth is adequately staffed - A booth needs at least two people all the time because people (hopefully) are constantly visiting. But you also need to make sure your flyers and other materials are well stocked - nothing makes a worse impression than staff floundering around looking for information to handout. In other worlds: Be Prepared! Also remember that staff will need to take breaks, while others should be walking the aisles, checking out competitors, and attending meetings.

  6. Make sure travel arrangements are done well in advance - This sounds obvious but many people arrive at the airport, hotel, rental car agencies and even the tradeshow itself and find their booking does not exist. Don't be one of them!

  7. Buy tradeshow shirts - You might think it looks kitschy - and maybe it does - but you need to have a shirt with your company logo on it.

Ahead of the tradeshow

  • Prepare your business cards and company flyers as well as pens with your company name on them and giveaways, such as a disc-on-key - again ensure it has your company name on it.

  • Get your emails into gear - start sending out emails with your booth location to everyone on your mailing list - past clients and potential clients that you have identified.

  • Make contact with journalists and editors of trade magazines and other publications and tell them where you will be and what your new products are. Remember they have pages - both online and in actual magazines - to fill. They need you just as much as you need them. They will be happy to hear from you.

  • Also, check out the blogging community - they need subjects to write about. Their blog might not be all about your company, but they might mention you regarding the subject they choose to write about.

At the tradeshow
Remember you will need a wide range of office supplies at the booth.
Try also to save costs on hiring chairs and tables. Many shows will allow you to bring your own furniture - it is often cheaper to buy them from a large supermarket near the show venue and leave them behind or give them away afterwards than to hire them from the show organizers.

It sounds corny - but you should ensure you have comfortable shoes. Ladies - there is only so long you can stand and walk around on high heels. Behind the booth, nobody will see you are wearing sneakers!

Try to think of an unusual line to attract passers-by attention. People like to receive attention, but they do not like corny lines.
Tradeshows are an opportunity to carry out market research - find out what people like, what they are looking for, what the new trends are.
Prepare a demo movie and run it continuously in the background.

Make sure you make a note of all visitors and get their business cards.
Put some food out for people to take: nibbles, cakes and fruit will grab visitors' attention.

Make your booth stand out by holding a prize draw. The prize doesn't have to be extravagant, it just needs to grab peoples' attention and make people think your company is interesting. This is also a good way getting potential leads by collecting business cards.
Have a happy hour party by renting a room at the hall or a nearby pub. People love being wined and dined. They are away from the office and looking for some genial company.

After the show
If the show is all about location, then after the event it's all about following up. All the chances are that show visitors have forgotten about you because they met scores of people and were inundated with brochures.
Call them, or at least email them to remind them about your meeting and how you might be able to take things forward.
Remember - this is no business for shrinking violents - so be bold and confident.

This article was written by Moshe Elkayam, Managing Director of branding and web design company YCS Ltd (