An exhibitor’s guide to trade shows & conferences

Trade shows: the perfect opportunity to meet one-on-one with prospective and current customers in your target audience. There’s no better place to flex your business’ muscle and show that you’re committed to excellence in your industry than a trade show. New products, services, or an innovative business approach are all commonly found at these events. No matter what you have up your sleeve, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of trade show planning to harness the full potential of these industry events. We’re here to layout the details of trade show planning; from goal setting, to booth design and setup, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know to successfully attend and exhibit at a trade show.

Pre-show Planning

It would be a mistake to underestimate the work that goes into planning and executing an effective trade show appearance. Attending a trade show is not a decision that can be made overnight. For shows that require considerable travel time, planning 6-12 months in advance is recommended (and might we add, extremely necessary) to iron out all the fine details. Simply put, there’s more to a trade show than just purchasing booth space and presenting to the crowd. To help you cover all the bases, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about pre-show planning and how you can best prepare your business for trade show success. We’ve also included a check-list to help guide you in your trade show planning.

Find The Trade Show For Your Business

Trade shows come in all shapes and sizes no matter what industry you are a part of. With an extensive list of available trade shows throughout the nation, it’s important to narrow down your choices to find the one that best fits your business. Luckily there are a handful of comprehensive, online databases that can help you sift through all the options.

With plenty of online resources, it’s hard not to find a trade show that fits your business. Beyond the sites above, typically each industry will have some kind of news source where trade shows themselves are advertising themselves in order to have a successful event.

If you’re attending a trade show for the first time, you may want to narrow your search to events that are tailored for smaller businesses. Exhibiting at a larger industry trade show may not be the best idea initially; big shows mean more competition on the floor and less quality time with prospective business leads.

Testing out small to medium-sized trade shows will give your business a chance to iron out the process and gauge the return on your investment before exhibiting at the bigger and more expensive trade shows within your industry.

We highly recommend looking at the vision or reason for the trade show. Is the trade show held for product launches / demonstrations, or is it specifically designed to meet potential clients? Trade shows come in all shapes and sizes, so knowing the purpose behind the show will help you tailor your booth and goal setting to optimize your business’ trade show performance. Types of trade shows include:

  • Industry trade shows – industry specific trade shows that are generally used for networking and seeing industry trends and innovations
  • Vendor trade shows – vendors within your specific industry market and advertise at these events
  • Product trade shows – new product launches and product innovations are found at these trade shows
  • Consumer trade shows – trade shows open to the public, giving the public opportunity to view businesses and products within a specified industry

Choose Your Booth

Choosing floor space should be done as soon as registering for the trade show begins. Premium booth space goes quickly, so the sooner you register, the better. We recommend scoping out the floor plan of the trade show venue to locate where the premium spaces are located. Trade show venues often provide online floor plans for this purpose. If possible, attend the trade show you’re planning on registering for a year in advance as a visitor; doing so will help you get acquainted with the overall feel of the event and a sense of where heavy foot traffic occurs. Of course, any attendee should know that the booth locations with the heaviest foot traffic will also come at the highest costs. Thus, it may be wise to test out the trade show at a cheaper booth spot and verify that your company generates a positive ROI from the show before committing to one of the more expensive and/or larger booth spaces. The cost of renting space varies depending on the trade show and where the space is located in the venue.

Designing your Booth

Putting effort into designing your booth displays will give you an upper hand on the trade show floor, in summary, your trade show displays should have a simple design and that is easily understood (meaning, not text or image heavy). Clearly portray your booth’s purpose by using concise wording and simple images; the goal of your displays is to create curiosity and inform. Be unique by using bright colors and attractive images to instantly draw attention to your booth.