How to Make the Most Out of Trade Shows in 2018

Ignore the decor, general theme, location and various attendees…and you’ll realize that every trade show or user conference is mostly the same. The core idea behind participating remains the same as well. A trade show organizer’s task is to deploy an in-person experience that will provide a demo or offer engagement to potential customers, audiences, and sometimes loyal followers.

As with all marketing campaigns, your mission for any conference or trade show is to achieve a goal. Either you want to make a sale, entice or bring on new customers or unveil new products and services you’re working on. Attending a major event on behalf of a brand or organization represents a company and helps them leave a mark. That also means your brand reps and booth participants need to be at the top of their game.

In the past, it was mostly about showing up and making an impression so attendees and consumers remembered you. That’s not exactly how it works anymore. The focus has shifted to innovative and unique experiences, many of which provide a desirable ROI for the company in question. If you’re looking to make an impact at events this year — or into the far future — here are some things you should know.

1. Know Your Audience and Peers

Every event will have a different focus. Some trade shows, for instance, are for business professionals and executives, while others are almost exclusively for the average consumer. The experience and engagements you craft should differ depending on your target audience.

That also means you must know and understand who you will be interacting with at the event. If necessary, take time to research and get to know who they are. Use customer metrics, historical information — such as past event details — and situational stats. What are the other brands and booth owners doing? Who else will be attending? It can also be valuable to know who won’t be there.

2. Choose Your Motivation

As is true of any event or campaign strategy, you need to chase a central goal. That is, narrow down your motivation so you’re not trying to achieve dozens of things with one local attendance. Do you want to build brand awareness and reputation? Are you demoing a new product and want to garner a certain amount of pre-orders? Do you want to meet your loyal customers and get to know them a little better?

Many tip-based guides such as this one encourage you to follow multiple reasons. Do exactly the opposite and choose one. It’s OK to change up your goals or mission for each event accordingly, but your focus must remain narrow and consistent.

3. How Are You Going to Make Your Mark?

Once you understand your audience and know your primary motivations, it’s time to decide how you will achieve your mission. Half of all brands with active event and exhibit programs have a budget set aside for viral marketing. Does that apply to your goals, or no?

Will you be setting up an event booth and engaging directly with customers and audiences? Are you going to participate in a speaker or influencer panel and share your knowledge? Will you be buying ads and promotions at the event to show off a new product? Are you going to shoot for new press and media coverage? Will you be focused on other business goals, like recruiting partners, conducting business meetings or collecting market research?

It’s important to note you can do several of these things — or all, if you so desire — at a single event. The primary issue is not necessarily choosing what you’ll do, but how you will be deploying and developing said interactions.

4. Modernize Your Booth or Station

It’s important to design an attractive and highly functional experience or exhibit for your audience. However, it’s just as important that you update your content, promotions and general interactions to provide a more modern experience.

Instead of using static graphics, for instance, opt for mobile-friendly and digital content. Use geo-fencing and indoor beacons to sync content directly with user devices. Create an exclusive photo op, or offer an event-only deal on your goods.

Furthermore, don’t forget you can take advantage of advanced analytics and data collection to learn a lot about your attendees and interactions, as well. You can use follow-up questionnaires and polls to gauge interest. You can also see how many total visitors came to your station, and how many passed it up. That may not help you now, during this event, but you can certainly use the information to improve your future campaigns and strategies.

5.  Promote, Promote, Promote

Despite this being the last tip on the list, it should factor in everywhere. Make sure you promote and advertise your attendance as much as possible, including before, during and after. That will not only help you boost leads and engagement during the event, but for future events, as well. If people know you attend a major event each year, they’re more likely to show up.

Be sure to brag and reveal how you engaged with users at the event when it’s all over, too. If you gave out free goods, share it via social media or your company blog. If people got a chance to try out products or goods early, talk about that instead. That gives people an incentive to attend upcoming events and gets them excited about a potential meetup.

Keep the Momentum Going

After the event, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve finished your work. Continue promoting your attendance and experiences, as we mentioned. Follow up with potential attendees by sending out polls and reaching out to collected leads. Send out email and social announcements to those you did see, and thank them for visiting you.

Finally, use all the data and information you have collected to build a better, more functional event booth or station in the future.

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Review

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