Thinking about getting into trade shows? First, make sure you’ve done your research.

Then, attend one! Surely you’ve visited trade shows at some point, but if you haven’t spent a lot of time perusing any exhibitions recently, it’s definitely worth going to one or two before reserving a space for yourself.

What I’m suggesting is that you go into a show with your own business/product in mind. Think about how you could benefit from this particular exhibition. Once you’ve got your eye on a show, go check it out!

Before you start to think about the money involved, think about the learning opportunity. It’s worth the experience of walking around – not just for your own potential booth rental at the show, but also for your business as a whole. You WILL learn, no doubt. Even if it’s only learning what you DON’T want.

Conventions, trade shows, or exhibitions are great for funneling in a specific type of customer who’s looking for your specific product. However, the process can be chaotic and time-consuming if you don’t start with a good game plan. So, before you make a commitment: Go, Observe, Learn.
Here’s a checklist for attending, a sort of “before-you-buy” test run.

  1.     Just do it.

Let yourself spend a little time and money on this crash-course in marketing and exhibits. Even if it’s a few months ahead – that’s even better. That way you could have time before visiting the show to come up with questions you have.

Then, you’ll have a year or so before the show comes around again to perfect your own exhibit. I know you’re eager to jump into this, but remember that a fully expanded idea is the best way to spend money efficiently (AKA save money) and enjoy the experience overall.

  1.     Be ready with questions, LOTS of questions.

Even if you can’t think of anything prior to the event, start writing down some thoughts as you go through the show. Like, things you want to research more and questions you’ll have for a booth designer (yes, you will want a booth designer, I’ll get into that in the <next article.>

Hopefully you’ve already done some research on this show. Come up with questions you have to ask business owners running their booths and/or exhibit officials about the experience of running a booth at this show. Then, just:

  1.     Let the creative juices flow!

Allow it to be a leisurely day. Show up early if you can and get a feeling for the process.

Look into the following:

  • How much time does it take to set up the basics for the show booth?
  • What’s the amount/type of display items being hauled in? How much space would you need to haul that?
  • Note the things you like and don’t like about booth designs – you’ll want to have that all organized in your mind later for a booth design sit down.
  • Note who seems to be enjoying themselves the most, and why!
  • Pay close attention to the businesses running booths the most efficiently.
  • Make some conclusions about what is drawing you/ other customers to certain booths. Who’s gathering a crowd? Who has a steady flow? Who seems to have a dud?

All in all this should be a fun day of exploring your future. Take someone with you who’s good for bounce ideas off of. Make this a real learning experience. A trade show is an investment, so it shouldn’t be something you feel at all unprepared for.

What do they say about luck being a matter of “preparation and timing”? I believe that’s the case for fun also. Your own future trade show experience can be so much fun with the proper preparation. Thoroughly thinking through how you’ll run your trade show booth will allow you the space to really enjoy it when the time comes.

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