The Secret to a Successful Trade Show

Participating in a trade show is a commitment that involves time, money and a great deal of risk. Once the basics are covered – attractive booth, a fresh batch of business cards and manpower – the real work has only just begun. Manning your booth and hoping for the best is not a winning trade show strategy. The best way to ensure a positive ROI is prep work.

Believe it or not, the best practice is to start prepping a minimum of 6 weeks prior to the event’s start date. The earlier the better! This includes doing homework on the attendees, other exhibitors and any onsite events or workshops.

A clear set of goals also needs to be defined. Trade show goals can range from setting a specific number of face-to-face meetings to walking away with 100 new leads. Whatever the objective, devise a plan focused on how to hit and exceed your specific goals.

Before starting the next phase of your prep work, research the rules and regulations associated with being an exhibitor. Every trade show is different, so make sure you understand what activities you can and can’t get away with before you brainstorm ways to engage with top prospects. That spitball session should focus on fun, interactive and memorable ways to start a conversation with a stranger who knows nothing about you or your product.

ChattyLime has facilitated a number of trade shows and high-profile events and here are some of the best “conversation starter” tactics we’ve experienced:

  • Candy Bar. Food is always a winner, but this candy bar encouraged prospects to enter the booth and create a to-go bag, which easily opened the door to chatting.
  • Happy Hour: Exhibitors had the opportunity to take a break and grab a free cold one during show hours. Most people don’t mind chatting with a free drink in their hand.
  • March Madness: The college basketball season inspired branded basketballs, a free throw game and a rented pop a shot machine.
  • Scratch Off cards: While prospects are scratching away to reveal their prize, you have the opportunity to cheer them on and start a conversation.

At the end of the day, planning and attending trade shows are exhausting. A pair of comfortable shoes and an extra set of hands to help with prep should not be taken lightly!

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