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Observations and Tips for Your Next Trade Show Table

Chicago, Marketing

Summer’s here and the time is right for…

While summer might be a time for dancing in the street, it’s also chock full of trade shows. Last month, Cushing exhibited at the Choose Chicago partner showcase. The day of the show, account manager Erik Reczek and I headed to McCormick Place.

En route, I kept thinking: did we do enough to prepare? Would our signage encourage attendees to visit our table?

The show flew by! Before long, we were packing up and waiting for an Uber back to the office, and I was able to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Every conference and trade show is different, but here are a few observations on what worked and, if you have an event coming up, hope these make an impact on your next appearance.

Budget for a new promo item

With the weather warming up, a branded fan seemed like a great giveaway idea. It powers up when you plug it into an iPhone or Android phone. Bright orange, and small enough to fit in a pocket, they were the first item people picked up.

It blew people away!

Demonstrating how to use the fans provided opportunities for conversation. We knew it was a good choice when people started stopping by because they heard we had them.

Oh, and having a candy bowl helped too!

Visit Your Neighbors

It pays to be neighborly! Thanks Mr. Rogers. If that reference is over your head (despite the new documentary), networking with your trade show neighbors is a great opportunity to make new contacts and build relationships in a low-pressure manner. But don’t forget the rest of the show floor!  It’s easy to forget to walk around a bit when you’re so focused on the folks stopping at your table.

Don’t! Here’s an idea that worked for me:

Set an alarm or calendar reminder on your phone and make time to walk the show.  There were people I would not have met if I hadn’t left our booth, including a couple of new prospects.

Paging Dr. Scholls

Trade shows are an effective way to meet many prospects in a short time span. You know what else they are? Exhausting.  Being on your feet, remembering names, asking questions and pitching your services can be draining, but fight that urge to sit. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take a quick break here and there. Before the show started, Erik and I agreed to cover for each other to grab a bite to eat or take a break. Just remember, time flies and you want to make the most of each moment. Which leads to the next thought.

Resist the Urge To Sit!

Front and Center

I found that standing in front of our table, off to the right side was the best position to make eye contact, and to take a step into the aisle. Why do that? Unfortunately, a trade show booth is not like Field of Dreams. Just because you build it, that doesn’t necessarily mean guests will come. I wanted the best spot to meet and greet people. While some people ignored our table and kept walking, there were plenty who stopped to chat.

Engage Attendees In Front of Your Table

Here’s why:  An attendee walked past our table half a dozen times.  I encouraged him to stop by, he smiled politely, and kept walking. The last ten minutes of the show he came by again! I stepped into the aisle and introduced myself. It turns out he wondered about a graphic we had on display (new wind-resistant signs) because of an upcoming promotion. I’m paraphrasing but this is what he said:

“You guys have been trying to get my attention the whole show! Thanks for introducing yourself!”

Trade shows are busy. Between attendees taking calls, responding to email & walking the show: there is no shortage of distractions. I specifically remember him thanking me. If we had not offered to chat, it would have been a missed opportunity.

Stand Out

Even though I work for a display graphics company, I cannot reiterate this enough: invest in a banner stand or backdrop. It’s worth it. Since there was no pipe and drape at this show, the several tables without them looked bare. Without a graphics backdrop, you could easily see into the booth behind (it can be distracting), and the tables that did not have them looked out-of-place.

Banners and Signage Help Your Company Get Noticed

And of course, targeted print collateral such as brochures, books and postcards are helpful takeaways for anyone who visits your table.

By no means the ultimate resource for working a trade show, we hope there are useful nuggets you can use for your next outreach. If you have questions on offerings or how we can assist with your next appearance, call 312.266.8228 or reach the team, through the quote form.

Jon Davis
Jon Davis

Jon Davis is Cushing’s Marketing Manager. From blogging to online communications, Jon writes about general client developments, Cross Media and marketing trends. Originally from New York, Jon and his family reside in Brookfield, Illinois. Click here to see his Google + profile.

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