How to maximize your Tri-City Expo investment

Continuing the tradition of a fun and useful tradeshow experience, the 23rd Annual Tri-City Expo will feature a circus theme that adds a little something extra to this year's unique show, which takes place on Sept. 22, 2011 from 3 to 7 p.m.

Held each year at the Center of NH-Radisson Hotel Manchester Exposition Center, Tri-City brings in nearly 200 exhibitors representing virtually every business type, from printers and accountants to airlines and hotels.

As usual, strong sponsorship by established New Hampshire companies, including FairPoint Communications and Public Service of New Hampshire, supports the joint effort of the Greater Nashua, Manchester and Concord Chambers of Commerce.

Hopefully you have already signed up to exhibit for this year's event, but if not, what are you waiting for? If you've already made the decision to showcase your business at this year's Expo, the planning stage begins now. Tradeshows are unique marketing opportunities that require careful planning and preparation, so you should start breaking up what is sure to be your lengthy to-do list into projects to do months, weeks, or days beforehand. As is the case with many business initiatives, success at a trade show has a lot to do with your planning and execution.

Start this year off with some prep help from the Tri-City committee. Again this year, we are offering a pre-show seminar on "Maximizing Your Results." This two-hour training on Aug. 24 will help maximize your results in taking part in this year's Expo. Armand Hebert of The Referral Institute N.H. will be covering a number of topics, ranging from knowing your target markets, tradeshow etiquette, and tracking results and handshakes – your first impression. If you have worked tradeshows in the past with minimal results, this workshop will give you the tools to create business from Tri-City. The workshop is free to Concord, Manchester and Nashua Chamber members and will be held at the Manchester offices from noon to 2 p.m. Call Julie Picard at 792-4106 for more information or to register.

Also for your consideration, follow this checklist to ensure both an enjoyable and successful Expo experience:

Read your pre-show materials: Everything from information on exhibitor parking to booth layout can be found in your pre-show packet of information, now available to registered attendees on the Tri-City website at Read carefully and many of your questions will be answered!

Meet your deadlines: Meeting the important cutoff dates will save you money and avoid last-minute hassles. Seemingly unimportant deadlines can make a big difference in the presentation of your booth. 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, handwritten name badge all day.

Set-up early: The wonderful Gentle Giant crew will be ready and waiting to help you set up the day of the show, beginning at 9 a.m., but don't wait until the last minute. They will be busy helping over 190 exhibitors unload their supplies and equipment, so arrive early to set up. As hundreds are setting up, a line forms early and won't allow you the time needed to respond to those ever-present 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 allows you the freedom to step back and make sure everything looks good before the first rush of people comes through the door.

Plan your booth: Exhibitor booths are never as large as you think they are going to be. 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.

Have the right people work your booth: The most attractive and engaging booths will not help your business if you don't have the right people working at your booth. These people need to be outgoing, communicative, friendly and knowledgeable about the company. This can be a real challenge for small companies, but finding the right person for the job can make or break an expo experience.

Capture qualified prospects: The key to this tip is qualified. It's not hard to walk away from an expo with hundreds of business cards: a smart and popular giveaway can guarantee that. The key is finding business people who are interested in your product. Focus on talking to people, take notes about their needs and then follow up during the coming days. Having several dozen names of people who you remember and can follow up with is better than hundreds of names 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, as well as to meet new clients. Let your clients and business associates know that you will be exhibiting and invite them to your booth.

Follow up: If the Expo has gone well for your business, you and your staff are going to be exhausted, but the work hasn't ended here. Set aside time during the days following the expo to follow-up with potential clients and business people that you met at the show. Be careful not to allow too much time to pass between the show and your follow-up!

Expos can be an outstanding tool for growing your business. Remember – be thoughtful in your preparation and devote the resources needed to make the show a success for you. When you do, your investment will be worthwhile and your business will benefit.

For general information about the Tri-City Expo, please call one of the hosting chambers: the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, 224-2508, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 666-6600 or the Greater Nashua Chamber, 881-8333.