© Janice D. Byer, MVA
As small business owners, especially those in the start up phase, preparing for a trade show can be a very scary and frustrating time. What do we take and how do we present it?
You first need to find out the specifics of the trade show you are registered for or considering exhibiting in. If necessary, contact the organizers of the event and get details on the type of visitors that the show attracts and the layout of the area you will have to display your business. Be sure to find out the size of the table you will have, whether there is wall space for your company sign, if there are electrical outlets available, and anything else that may or may not be included (ie. table cloth, etc.).
Once the show space specifics have been established, then you can move on to thinking about and deciding what and how you can "show your stuff". The following are just a few ideas to help you get ready for that all important trade show. (Note: most of these ideas are based on being in the service industry but will work for products industry companies as well).
- If the table you have does not include a tablecloth, be sure to get one that compliments your display and represents your company’s image and colour scheme (without being overpowering). Even if a tablecloth is supplied, bring your own or something to add some depth to your table (ie. table runner). Your table will definitely stand out in a crowd.
- If space will allow, erect a stand-alone presentation board. On the board, you can show how clients can benefit by using your services. Be creative and make it stand out. Include pictures, if possible, and be sure your company name and logo are more than obvious.
- If there is wall space, but your budget is minimal, use your trusty desktop publishing software to create a template of your company name. Use the template, along with bristle board, cardboard, or foam core to make a sign that you can put up on the wall behind your booth.
- Arrange your table in levels. Put the larger items at the rear, shorter items in front of those, and even shorter items in front of those.
- Develop a PowerPoint presentation to display on your table (if an electrical outlet is within reach of your booth). You can make it on your desktop computer and transfer it to a laptop, which you can rent or borrow if you don’t already have one. Your visitors will find this visually appealing and will draw in their attention.
- Have a portfolio of your work available. Print off some of your best projects, put them into plastic sheet protectors, and arrange them in a binder. Then lay out the binder where visitors can flip through the pages.
- Have plenty of giveaways, such as business cards, brochures, pens, magnets, and anything else that has your company name and/or logo on it. Most people who attend trade shows are expecting to take home some goodies. And, be sure to use display racks for showing your flyers, specials, brochures, and such.
- Offer something a little different… FOOD. I displayed at the Bridges to Better Business trade show in Brampton and included a basket of Girl Guide cookies on my table. They were a big hit… I wish I had brought more. If you can, package your food in a way that will allow you to have your company contact info on it.
- Offer Gift Certificates for some of your services. There’s nothing better than getting a deal and, when they "cash in" their certificate, they will see how valuable your services are and will come back for more.
- Have a drawing for a prize. Offer a prize that, in some way, compliments your business if possible, and appeals to anyone. Have visitors and entrants sign a guestbook, fill in a ticket, or drop their business cards into a fish bowl or gift bag. You can then use this information at a later date to make a follow up contact.
- If the show will be on for an extended length of time, be sure to have assistance in manning your booth so you can take a break. If you don’t have the option of having someone take over for a bit, be sure to put up a note that tells people how long you will be gone or when you will be back.
- Most importantly, be friendly and inviting. Say hi to those that turn and look toward you or your booth. Strike up a conversation and be sure to have a short introductory speech ready. And…have fun!