Attending trade shows and conventions is an expensive proposition. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can spend thousands of dollars just on entry fees, and more to set up a booth on the trade show floor. With this kind of an investment at stake, it’s important to develop a game plan to maximize your ROI and chances for success. Understanding what mistakes are most common and how to avoid them will put you on the path to getting the most out of your next industry event.
Getting swept up in panels
Panels, keynotes, and other brainstorming sessions offer an important opportunity to companies to expand their knowledge base. From learning more about the latest trends to sleuthing out what the competition is up to, panels provide great information. But it’s easy to over focus on attending these sessions, and create a schedule that’s filled to the brim. At the end of the conference, you may have missed important networking opportunities and the chance to connect with customers, prospects, and colleagues on the show floor. Avoid this by identifying three tiers of panels: your priority must-see sessions, ones that would be nice to take in if your schedule allows, and those you can skip. This approach provides a framework to anchor your conference agenda around and ensure that you accomplish a range of business goals.
Lacking a plan, goals, and meetings
Most events are incredibly busy, from star caliber keynotes to an array of panels to a huge industry floor. If you attend the events without a set of attainable goals, you might find yourself walking out without a clear return to show for the investment you made to attend. Instead, sit down and map out a game plan. Who is attending the show that you have to meet? Can you reach out to them in advance to set up coffee or drinks? What discussion sessions are most interesting to you and your customers, or will help you solve a pressing problem? Check out the list of companies with booths on the floor. Are any of them on your wish list for customers or collaborators? Build time in your schedule to stop by and start a dialogue or move forward with a negotiation. Your schedule should have enough room in it for you to still be spontaneous, and to take advantage of the opportunities that invariably pop up.
Not investing in a professional presence
A critical part of the trade show experience is staking out a physical space that will help attract attention. Many brands are competing for eyeballs, with everything from quality trade show booths like those from Nimlok Online, to giveaways and entertainment. But for most industries, the core of a good presence starts with the fundamentals: a great booth, banner stands, and strong collateral.
Think about the visual impression that you want to create, the onsite experience, and the follow up information that you want to send home. From there, you’ll be able to make strategic investments that support these goals. It’s also important to ensure that you’ve got adequate staff on site to answer questions, represent the brand, and capture leads as they come through.
Investing in a trade show can be a smart way to quickly raise your profile, expand your network, and fill your pipeline. But going into the event with a clear sense of what you want to achieve, avoiding information overload, and putting your best brand face forward is key to getting a high ROI. Spend time planning in advance and following up afterward to help cement what actually happens on site at the event.
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