San Diego Convention Center, Downtown, San Diego, California, USA – Photo Courtesy: Prayitno
Business conventions and trade shows are historically one of the greatest platforms available for introducing a small business to the market. During the recession, the trade show industry suffered along with most of the business world, but it’s rebounded nicely, and according to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, trade shows are up 5 percent since 2011.
If you’re thinking about exhibiting, it’s important to plan ahead for your space, staff, and display requirements. Larger conventions can attract 20,000 attendees or more, so you need to have a strategy for how you can stand out in the crowd. The right convention display will help you establish your brand even among the exhibiting competitors, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to achieve it.
1. Preparing for the Convention
The typical display booth in North America is 10×10 ft and as high as 20 ft., but you can often pay extra to have a larger display space. If you do, you don’t necessarily need a larger display – instead, you can use the extra room to accommodate more people at once and let your booth stand out from those around it. Make sure you know the convention demographics and how many attendees you can expect, then calculate how many people you hope to talk to each day so you can calculate your supply needs.
At least 3 months ahead, you should be ordering inventory like business cards, stationary, labels, and any other freebies featuring your business logo that you want to give away at your booth. You also need at least one large, workable banner to display that’s clear enough to be seen across the convention hall. Spend some time on making your logo look as professional as possible, as well as deciding what pertinent information to include on all the merchandise.
Lastly, you should do some pre-promotion on social media and elsewhere. Get the word out about your exhibit instead of relying on attendees to show up blind.
2. Incorporating Technology
Surveys of convention attendees have shown that smaller businesses who cannot necessarily afford the big, splashy displays that larger businesses roll out are definitely at a disadvantage. But the big equalizer is digital displays, which is why you might consider spending your convention budget in part on renting an LED, LCD, or plasma display panel and taking part of your message to a technological level. Digital displays convey youth and innovation, and since the internet is such a vital part of business now, it shows you aren’t living in the past.
Large businesses can shell out millions of dollars on a trade show, but small businesses are often operating on less than $5,000 per convention. You can rent an LCD monitor where you can insert your own memory card and offer video, photos, music, or even interactive elements. You don’t have to get over your head, but simply the professional look of some kind of technological element will elevate your display no matter how small your company might be when you exhibit at the convention.
3. Booth Etiquette
Ideally, you want your convention display to speak for itself, and through promotional items, banners, posters, and digital monitors, you’ll be able to convey the look and feel of your business, as well as the important information attendees need to know. But you’re also your own best marketing tool, and when you’ve attracted people to your booth, you need to give them a reason to want to stay.
Work on your body language, and make sure any staff you bring along to the event is properly coached on how to approach and speak to guests. Make eye contact and smile at everyone, and avoid crossing your arms and legs. Stand up unless the client you are speaking to prefers to sit. And always say thank you to the attendees who spend even a few minutes looking over your display. Also be mindful of featuring loud music or other disruptions in your display because it’s considered disrespectful to the other exhibitors. Never leave your booth and venture into someone else’s area – it’s unprofessional and could be seen as interfering with their sales. Use your display as an opportunity to form contacts and partnerships that will help you grow your business in the long term.
As long as you know the rules of your particular convention, it’s possible to build a professional display that’s fun, enticing, and has a clear message. Stand by the tried and true marketing advice they give you in business school and tell a story, but also focus on offering attendees something they haven’t seen before. Your logo, promotions, and technology are all a part of that, but your winning attitude could be the biggest part of all.
Amy Chandler is a blogger for www.discountbannerprinting.co.uk, one of the UKâ€™s leading providers of posters, banners, printed window clings and stickers.