The Do's and Dont's for a Successful Trade Show Exhibit

June 30, 2016

Last week, TicketsatWork – part of EBG’s Corporate Programs Division – exhibited at the annual Society for Human Resource Management Conference in Washington D.C.

Trade shows are one of the best resources to attract new business, interact with current customers and acquire earned media. Check out what our CEO Brett Reizen tells Employee Benefits Adviser and Employee Benefits News are the top incentive products employers are leveraging to reward employees.

With hundreds of businesses vying for the audience’s attention, TicketsatWork employees and trade show veterans share tips and best practices on how to stand out among the crowd. 

DO prep:  Advanced preparation for exhibiting at a trade show is the key to success. Booth space and build, signage, collateral materials, branded merchandise, shipping, hotels and transportation all need to be coordinated well in advance. It is also important to factor in time for reviews and corrections as errors or changes in messaging are likely to occur along the way.  

DO set goals: Aside from showcasing a professional and attractive booth, establishing a list of clear and realistic objectives is necessary to get the most out of the trade show. The objectives will act as a guideline for message and strategy development as well as a point of reference to determine the trade show ROI.

DON’T assume your team is prepared: Weekly or bi-weekly strategy sessions are a must-do in the months leading up to a trade show. Make sure the entire team is well-versed in the product and understands the strategy and goals. Several ways to stay organized and guarantee everyone is prepared include:

  • Establish a team leader – A team leader is essential during a trade show. The leader should be the point person for any questions or troubleshooting. They should also be accountable for boosting team morale and managing the execution of the preset strategy in order to meet or surpass conference goals.
  • Create a daily calendar of events – This will allow team members to plan ahead and know what is expected of them each day.
  • Put together a trade show packet – This should act as a guidebook that team members can reference if they need to check a statistic or brush up on a product description. The packet should include everything from the daily itinerary to goals and strategy, engagement and potential customer questions and any additional talking points regarding product history, statistics or new additions.
  • Group huddles – At the end of each day, the team leader should gather the group for a debrief session to discuss positives and negatives. This will allow for modifications and improvements to be made for the following day as well as keep the team excited and motivated for what’s ahead.  

DO have engaging collateral materials and branded merchandise: There’s no better way to attract a trade show audience than to have beautifully branded merchandise and collateral materials that are appealing, easy-to-read and accessbile. 

TicketsatWork hit it out of the park this year with great branded merchandise. The products were so well-received that we nearly ran out on the second to last day of the show. Here is a sample of our giveaways:

  • Tote bags
  • Notebooks
  • Pens
  • Harry Potter mouse pads (sponsored by our partner Universal Orlando Resort) 
  • USB flash memory sticks to host all collateral materials (This was a huge success as trade show attendees don't want to carry around more paper.) 

DO know your audience: It is important to do your homework prior to the show and learn more about your audience and their professional needs. In order to capture as many positive leads as possible, it is essential to make sure your message aligns with the audience’s biggest challenges and showcases how your product can help solve those pain points. 

DON’T be passive:  Wandering idly around the booth or incessantly chatting with colleagues will hinder your team from reaching its goals. Be proactive! The trade show floor is bustling with people 24/7. Walk around, talk to attendees and ask if they know about your product and might be interested in taking a minute to learn about it. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many people will appreciate your friendly introduction and take the time to hear you out. 

DO keep it fun: Get your message out in creative ways.

  • Run a sweepstakes
  • Feature a game
  • Bring in well-known special guests  
  • Provide food or drinks samples
  • Host a client event 

TicketsatWork leveraged several of the above tactics at the SHRM conference and they were immensely beneficial in capturing the audiences attention. 

On the conference's opening day, TicketsatWork hosted a rooftop dinner and cocktail party for its clients. The event was highlighted by a dynamic keynote address by U.S. Navy SEAL John McGuire and great surprise giveaways. Events are a great way to thank your customers for their business and show them your appreciation. Check out photos from the trade show and event

In addition to great giveaways, TicketsatWork ran a social media sweepstakes to promote its new Reward Management Solution. The contest and TicketsatWork’s SHRM booth was sponsored by our exclusive corporate sales parnter Universal Orlando Resort, who brought their famous mischevious minions to take photos with attendees. Universal also sponsored the sweepstakes grand prize that consisted of a 4-day, 3-night trip to Universal Orlando Resort including airfare, lodging and park passes for the lucky winner. 

DON’T miss out on media opportunities: All trade shows invite media outlets and bloggers to cover conference happenings. Find out what outlets will be represented and what reporters will be attending. Create press kits around your message or announcement and share them with media outlets prior to and during the show. Take the time to find out what the reporters or bloggers are covering and ask if there are current or future opportunities to feature your message or product. The key is to build relationships with these new contacts. Take a look: TicketsatWork made Jumsptart:HR’s list of top 5 impressive HR vendors at SHRM 2016.

DO follow up: Make all your hard work and efforts at the trade show worthwhile by following up with every individual your team spoke with. Attendees will have met hundreds of vendors who were sharing their products and/or services at the trade show so stand out by quickly following up post conference to thank them for their time and to establish next steps.