Exhibiting At My First Trade Show: A Walkthrough for First-Time Exhibitors
by Madison Frye on Jun 16, 2023 3:19:55 PM
Let’s face it. Exhibiting at your first Trade Show can be extremely intimidating, no matter if your company is big or small. This article will help you answer questions such as, “Why is my booth placement so important?”, “What are Priority Points?”, or “What is an Installation Contractor and why should I use them?”. The Map Your Show team attends Trade Shows almost daily and has gained knowledge from many diverse Trade Show Professionals around the world. Check out our Walkthrough for Exhibiting At Your First Exposition.
If you’re reading this, then you’ve most likely decided to exhibit at a Trade Show soon, but need a little help getting an idea of what is needed. You already know the importance of Trade Shows and you’ve selected which exact Trade Show you’d like to attend for your specific industry. Great news – That’s the hardest part and you’re already on your way to a great Trade Show experience. Let’s get started.
Beginning the Trade Show Application and Online Directory Process
First, you will need to undergo the Exhibitor application process to become an Exhibitor at the Trade Show you are interested in. While each unique show is different in what they will request and when, largely this is the first thing to come your way as a potential first-time Exhibitor. Once you have filled out the contact information needed and are approved as an Exhibitor for the upcoming show, you’ll then gain access to your Exhibitor Dashboard. It’s here that you can truly create a unique experience for attendees who visit your company page within the show. First, upload your company and contact information. Then, take it a step further with engaging image and video uploads to capture the attention of visitors. For the most part, if your show is utilizing a mobile app, this should update there as well. This online module will usually launch to the public about six to eight weeks out from the show and attendees can begin interacting with your company profile. If the show has decided to utilize a mobile app, this can be somewhere between two to six weeks before the show for launch.
Where To Stay for Your Upcoming Expo
Now that you are well on your way through the process for your first Trade Show, you’ll want to jump on selecting your hotel as soon as possible. As you know, Trade Shows are all about networking and gaining leads. One way to do that is to stay in the hotel that is recommended by the Expo. Oftentimes, the hotel bar is a great place to meet and gather outside of the traditional time for the Expo, and it is a great way to network without the pressures of being on the show floor. You can also achieve this by scheduling a dinner with your prospective or current clients as well.
However, watch out for spammy emails. You will receive all sorts of emails that advertise affordable hotel rates not too far from the Expo. Do not fall for the cheaper rates! Largely, these are scam attempts that will leave you without a place to stay for the show and a few dollars short. When in doubt that an email is fake, reach out to your show contact directly for more information. If there are obvious spelling errors or it is from an email not associated with the show, go ahead and report it. Oftentimes, Trade Shows will have a dedicated page for show details. You can find preferred hotels and more information about the show there.
How to Select a Booth Space and Create the Ultimate Trade Show Booth
Creating the ultimate booth for your Trade Show is a rewarding process. At the end of the planning and layout creation, you’ll have an amazing display for your first-ever Trade Show. No matter if you decide to create the booth on your own, or utilize a company such as an installation contractor, you’ll need to start with purchasing booth space.
Usually, a show team will email you when booth selection is available, but a show may also use “Priority Points”. Priority Points are sometimes used for companies that have been long-term Exhibitors at a specific show. The longer you have exhibited at a show, you may have the opportunity to unlock first dibs to select your booth space. For a great example, check out how NAB Show uses Priority Points.
When it comes to booth space prices and sizes, these are often priced by square feet (or square meters outside of the United States), but you can also see them priced by each space. In the US, booths will usually increase by 10ft increments (10ft x 10ft, 10ft x 20ft, 30ft x 30ft, etc.). Outside of the US, we usually see booths increase by 1m, beginning at 3m x 3m.
When it’s your turn to select your booth space, there are many things to keep in mind. We mentioned the size of the booth, but how about the following:
- Where are the emergency exits?
- Where is the booth space in relevance to the entrance, bathrooms, etc?
- If other exhibitors are listed on the show floor, where are your competitors?
- Which exhibitors have the “main” booth spaces and where are they located in comparison to your booth?
- What is the traffic flow through the event space?
- Do you have enough clearance for what you plan to display?
- Does the booth space have permanent fixtures like pillars that you need to work around?
- Are there any fire lanes you need to be aware of?
Deciding the best location for your booth can vary with each unique exhibit hall and can also depend on what you are aiming to accomplish. If you are choosing a large booth space, we recommend you utilize a contractor for ease. Be sure to look into their relevant experience, reviews, property damage coverage, and the permits you may need from them. If you decide that a smaller 10ft x 10ft booth is more beneficial for your specific circumstances, there are many companies where you can select a ready-to-ship booth or design your own booth with ease. These are largely inexpensive, plus, they are easy to ship and assemble for your upcoming show. For more information on the booth design process, we’ve created, “Trade Show Behind the Scenes: Preparing the Booth”. An easy read with recommendations on the process behind your design, promotional and giveaway items, and a general guideline on how to man your booth with the right people for the best experience at your first Trade Show.
Preparing Content and Collecting Data for Your First Trade Show
Now that you’re ready to go from the outside perspective, let’s look at what an attendee can experience by interacting with your booth at the show. The first things to think about are:
- Value proposition. Why would they want to come chat with your team?
- How will you broadcast your content?
- How will you collect leads?
When thinking of the value that your company could bring to potential prospects who visit your booth, it is great to remember the heart of the value proposition chart, Aka: the prospect. As an Exhibitor, it is your job to understand the specific gains they look to achieve and their unique pain points. These can all depend on their specific job. Before attending the show, it is a great idea to understand the unique personas (or customer profiles) you may be interacting with at the show.
Once you have your personas charted out and have taken time to understand each, begin developing the components of your Elevator Pitch.
- Who are you? What do you do at your company?
- What is your company and what can they offer?
- How are you different from your competitors?
- Who are your ideal clients?
- What is your “hook” or attention-grabbing question for the chat
Now that you have the thought behind the content, you’ll be readily prepared for attendees to enter your booth, as well as leave them with a great experience.
How Will You Broadcast Your Content?
Having a game plan for the content you’d like to push at the show is an absolute must. In the previous paragraph, we gave a brief overview of how to analyze the needs of your audience and how to position your product to meet their needs. Now, it’s time to amplify your product or service.
One way to broadcast to your current audience is through social media before, during, and after the show. While social media is a newer and more exciting way to interact with your audience in real-time, its true potential can sometimes be overlooked. By using snapshots, videos, or live streams, you can engage your direct audience to get excited about the show. Engaging new audiences is your next step. At the show, you have the prime audience you are looking to achieve. As a first-time Exhibitor, you will need to be prepared with incentives to get this audience to stop by.
When reaching out to the show audience, there are sponsorship opportunities that you can invest in, too. These can include banners on the show map, a product highlight, mobile push notifications, and much more. Map Your Show’s Exhibitor Engagement Team has a wide range of additional sponsorship opportunities and is always here to help with any questions. The one thing that we see as a common thread among new Exhibitors is that they are afraid to ask questions. Be the outlier!
Collecting Leads at a Trade Show
When you are at the show, you’ll need a designated person or spot to collect leads. This can depend on how your booth is designed on which you would like to utilize. Collecting information from those who stop by (aka your leads) is a step that frequently first-time Exhibitors forget. While there are many ways to do this, we always will recommend the interactive approach to collecting leads: a giveaway entry. Select a prize to give away at the end of each day and have attendees fill out a card or drop their business card to enter. If you have more budget to work with, perhaps have a gift for any attendee that attends a live demo at the show.
Another way to gain leads at your trade show is to incorporate a way for attendees to schedule appointments before the show. Pre-show appointment scheduling is an underestimated advantage! By keeping your booth busy and attendees flowing, this encourages more attendees to stop by. Making the initial conversation with a sales rep may be intimidating to some, but often times attendees are more likely to join a demonstration in progress compared to initiating the conversation. So how do you get attendees to make appointments before the show? Incorporate a link on your online directory and incentivize the attendee to stop by with the previously mentioned prizes or gift cards. Now that you have gained their information through either the giveaway mentioned previously or the pre-show appointment scheduling, you can follow up with your leads after the show through email marketing campaigns and more.
First-Time Exhibitor Walkthrough Wrap-Up
Exhibiting at your first Trade Show can be hard, we agree! With the right guidance, it doesn’t have to be. Now that you know the basics, such as Priority Points, Sponsorship Opportunities to make broadcasting your content easier, and more, you are well on your way to success. Don’t forget to check out our blog, “Trade Show Behind the Scenes: Preparing the Booth”, for more tips on selecting your team, booth design, and more.