How to make the most of your business expo dollar

Success at a trade show has a lot to do with planning and execution.

Exposition organizers often start planning their shows months in advance, and smart exhibitors begin their planning shortly thereafter. For shows like the Greater Nashua, Concord and Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Tri-City Expo, exhibitor registration starts as early as mid-April for a late September show. Signing up early for an expo like Tri-City can mean a better location on the expo floor — the end of an aisle or space near the entrance. By not waiting to the last minute to reserve your spot, you can put yourself in a prime location.

Once your business has reserved the best possible location at an expo, these 10 easy steps can help you make your next expo experience a success:

• Read your pre-show materials: Everything from information about exhibitor parking to forms from the health department for you to complete if you wish to give away food can be found in your pre-show packet of information. Read it all carefully and your questions will be answered.

• Meet your deadlines: From meeting the early registration deadline to meeting the deadline to order power, making the important cutoff dates will save you money and avoid last minute hassles. For example, most shows offer preprinted name tags for staff working at a booth and by getting those names in on time you can avoid having to wear a hard to read hand-written name tag all day.

• Set up early: Setting up early gives you the freedom to respond to last-minute details. A forgotten power cord or package of brochures won’t ruin a show if there is time to run back to your business to pick them up. Setting up early also gives you the freedom to step back and make sure everything looks good before the first rush of people come through the door.

There also are practical reasons why setting up early is a good idea. In a show the size of the Tri-City Expo over 225 exhibitors have to unload their vehicles at two unloading docks. Not surprisingly, the lines form within the last hour or two of the start of the show.

• Plan your booth: Even the largest expo booths are under 100 square feet. With tables, chairs, waste baskets and staff there is a surprisingly small amount of display space in even the largest booths. Information or images that you want people to see should be placed at or near eye level and the print should be large enough for people to read at a distance. Don’t underestimate the power of lighting and displays when planning your booth. With over 200 other businesses competing for attention anything you can do to attract expo-goers will help your business. One note of caution: your displays should be in keeping with the nature of your business.

• The right people: It takes a special person to work an expo booth for hours on end as thousands of people flow past. They need to be outgoing, communicative, friendly and smart. They need to be able to read people, understand their needs and questions, and answer them in a succinct and accurate way. They need to be interested in being there and dedicated to the product. Most importantly, they need to be well-versed in your company’s product and able to answer any question that may come up.

• Make people remember you: Distinguishing yourself from a room full of businesses can be difficult. Fun games, trivia, puzzles and giveaways can be very helpful, but don’t underestimate the impact that a well-spoken and well-versed representative can make for your company.

• Capture qualified prospects: It is not hard to walk away from an expo with literally hundreds of business cards, but who has the sales force or time to follow up on all of those business cards? The key is finding businesspeople who are interested in your product, especially at a show like the Tri-City Expo at which several thousand expo-goers cycle through in only a couple of hours. Focus on talking to people, take notes about their needs and then follow up during the coming days. Going home with several dozen names of people who you remember and can follow up with is better than the names of hundreds of people who may have thrown their card in the dish only for the giveaway.

• It’s not all about the prospects: Use the expo as a chance to reconnect with existing clients. Let your clients and business partners know that you will be exhibiting, and invite them to your booth. Offering them a special “thank you” giveaway for those who stop by the booth is a nice way to encourage them to visit your booth.

• Follow up: If the expo has gone well for your business, you and your staff are going to be exhausted. The work hasn’t ended with the end of the expo. Set aside time during the days following the expo to follow up with potential clients and businesspeople whom you met at the show. Be careful not to allow too much time to pass between the show and your follow-up. As time passes, the positive impression you left at the expo loses its impact and it will be harder and harder to reconnect with someone you met at the expo.

All of this advice can be divided into two categories: be thoughtful in your preparation and devote the resources, in both time and money, needed to make the show a success. When you do these two basic things your investment will be worthwhile and your business will benefit.

Chris Hodgdon is president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. This is the second part of a three-part series detailing how New Hampshire businesses can make the most of expositions and trade shows in the lead-up to the Sept. 28 Tri-City Business to Business Exposition at the Center of New Hampshire-Radisson Hotel in Manchester. Now in its 17th year, the expo is presented by the Greater Nashua, Manchester and Concord Chambers of Commerce. For general information about the show call the Greater Nashua Chamber at 603-881-8333.

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