The following is a guest post from Daniel Frank is an online marketer and trade show expert with some great ideas on how to prepare for a trade show.

Trade shows can be a great way for an up and coming company to get their name out, attract clients and network. But they can also be a waste of time and money if you fail to prepare properly. Hopefully the following tips will help you avoid spending hard earned cash only to spend two days standing in a crowded hall.

  1. Decide what you want from the show: This is a common point that everyone will tell you, but it cannot be emphasised enough. Are you going to the show to generate new sales leads? Research the competition and find useful contacts? Launch a product? There are a lot of reasons to go these shows so pick some and decide how you are going to achieve these objectives. For example let’s say you work for a small software company and you want to show off your new smartphone apps and get some press coverage. You also hope to get some leads for new commissions.
  2. Choosing which shows to go to: Once you’ve decided why you’re going to a show you need decide which ones to go to. This might sound like an odd way round but there are thousands of shows out there and knowing what you want will help you pick the correct ones. So if take the software company above there are a range of shows that might be relevant. The obvious ones would be shows for the software and telecoms industry. But it is also worth considering other options.

If we imagine your company’s app offers a tool for bankers letting them track interest rates across several markets. Banking trade shows then become a tempting option, first you’ll stand out as you’ll be something different and second you get direct access to your end users. There may well be other options; it is worth brainstorming which sectors are relevant to your company and where you could make an impact.

But this still leaves you with a huge range of shows to look at, so you’ll have to narrow them down further. Questions worth asking range from the practical such as what food is provided and how far away is it; to who is talking and presenting. In the end the decision will rest on several factors and it is worth making a checklist of what criteria you want the show to offer you and asking others in the industry which they recommend.

  1. Equipment: If you’re exhibiting then you’ll need some exhibition stands both to create a memorable impression as well as providing a showcase and storage space for your products or services. Easily forgotten essentials are comfortable shoes, phone and laptop chargers as well as pens and paper. You’ll also need a lot of business cards and brochures as they will run out. A lot of what you bring depends on what you want to achieve. Our software company for example will want bring along a smartphone and display stand so they can demonstrate their apps.
  2. Training: This is essential as exhibiting isn’t exactly the same as selling. Your likely to get a lot of causal enquires who will be turned off by an aggressive pitch. Similarly I often see staff on exhibition stands just repeating the same pitch to every-one who turns up. Practice engaging visitors in conversation rather than just talking over them.
  3. Pre-Event marketing: Tell people you are going to be there! Everything from emailing potential attendees with and teasers about what you’re going to show to blogging and possibly even press releases. When visitors turn up to an exhibition with anywhere from tens to thousands of companies and stalls exhibiting they are going to need a good reason to seek you out, so if you have already engaged with them then this can give you a huge advantage. If get can get a mailing list of attendees so much the better. Just don’t spam them!
  4. Follow up: How are you going to follow up leads? Another obvious point but essential to bear in mind. Set up a system to collect phone numbers and email addresses or risk watching them disappear.

I hope these tips will help your preparations for your next show. These opportunities can be too good to miss and it would be shame to waste time and money due to poor planning. As my science teacher also used to say, You get out what you put in.

About the Author:?Daniel Frank is an online marketer working for Nimlok. They have been producing exhibition stands for over 40 years.