Tradeshows are to businesses what circuses are to entertainers. While a circus dazzles the senses and always seems perfectly pulled together, it in fact is often a riotous mess behind the scenes. The same rule applies to tradeshows. You may not be hosting the show itself, but even as a participant you’ll find yourself feeling like you’re a ringmaster to a bunch of animals. The best staff, an ideal venue and even a large budget doesn’t ensure smooth sailing.
Much like a circus, it doesn’t really matter how much running around you’ve done beforehand, as long as it’s all pulled together in the end. Here’s how to get there from beginning to end.
1. Who’s Doing All the Work?
Maybe your company is too small and poorly staffed – or on the opposite side of the spectrum – too busy to designate valuable team members to a tradeshow. Whatever the case, it’s not uncommon for companies to outsource all stages to a contractor that specializes in tradeshows. It’s not a bad idea to go through a pro to at least consult with when it comes to your tradeshow materials and strategy. They’ll have a better idea of best practices and winning strategies. Companies with more modest resources need to give their strongest marketing personnel the tools, resources and time they need to research, develop and implement a strategy.
2. About Face
It might not even be a bad idea to hire outside help to represent your company at the show; perhaps no one in your team possesses strong speaking and networking skills. It may be alluring to simply hand off the project to someone else, but the drawback there lies in the fact that no one knows your business like you do. So instead of just handing off the project, inject your strongest people to collaborate with the pros and be at the event as a source of support. At the same time, you’ll also be helping train your employees to brush up on skills they may not have or be rusty with.
3. Lead the Way
The goal of any tradeshow is to develop strong leads. Consider your event a failure if your business wrapped up without having struck up new professional relationships and cultivated some strong leads. Assuming you’ve done what it takes to draw in leads, businesses can harvest leads through iPod, iPad and laptop tools. Other lead management tools incorporate CRM – often overlooked on the systems side of tradeshows.
4. Reaching the End Goal
Since there’s so much involved in working a tradeshow, it never fails that something always gets left to the 11th hour. In other cases, a lot of somethings get left to the 11th hour simply because (novice) marketers underestimated the amount of prep time needed. Avert a sure disaster by setting up an action plan that outlines mini weekly goals up to 4 months ahead of any show. Everything should be wrapped up two weeks prior, which gives any company a two week cushion in case of any blunders or oversight.
5. Dealing with a Wild Card
You can plan and plan to perfection. Your booth is exquisite, marketing materials flawless and agents prepped to go. But there’s little you can do about unruly or undesirable attendees – and they’re always lurking around. In a worst case scenario, your exhibit has attracted an attendee that maybe is unmanageable to be with or becomes emotional and out of control for any reason. While such acts are rare, they do happen. They not only draw unwanted attention but reflect poorly on your business. Learn to spot these people or identify a spiraling situation before it gets out of hand. Team members should be cued into each other even if they’re attending to another guest so that they can rely on others to call security or event organizers, who will then take over. The worse possible course of action is trying to diffuse someone who’s adamant on making a scene.