I recently had the privilege of exhibiting at the Wedding MBA Convention in Las Vegas, where I met many fantastic contacts and made many fabulous connections. If you’re preparing to present your own business at a public event, here are some of my favorite exhibition tips.
Tucked behind rows and rows of monotone display tables, every exhibitor runs the risk of being lost in the crowd—literally. Plan ahead and prepare brightly colored tablecloths, noticeable signage, and even bunches of balloons to draw all eyes to your booth (I’ve seen presentations with photo booths, floral displays, and even Elvis himself). To make sure you’re seen and heard, bring a portable sound system and an interesting playlist that will set you apart.
A lively, upbeat booth will not only stand out from the competition, but it will also attract curious attendees. Remember: more people, more buzz. More buzz leads to popularity, which ideally will lead you right up the path to success.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check the guidelines of your venue to make sure props are allowed before setting up your one-of-a-kind booth.
Open your booth design
Different venues offer different customization options for their presentation areas. If your venue allows you free rein with your booth, you should design it to be like your home: warm and inviting.
Don’t fall into the trap of blocking yourself off from the public behind a wall of tables. People want to feel welcomed into your space, so leave your presentation area open to the flow of traffic. If feasible, line your props and tables against the sides of your booth, and try to find an eye-catching display that will draw people into the open center of your space (a centrally placed TV with a slideshow works great).
People will naturally gravitate towards your open presentation, and you can greet and interact with them much like you would with guests in your own house. This will help put them at ease while making them more receptive to your business message.
Don’t forget pre-marketing
A very common mistake for many exhibitors is that they don’t always remember the value of pre-marketing. This misstep can cost you bigtime.
Don’t be shy to advertise your public appearances. If attending a conference or trade show, broadcast it on every social media account you have access to. Send an e-mail blast to all your contacts, and even call up family and friends who will be in the area and ask them to swing by to see you. Amp up the excitement by advertising freebies, a raffle, or even complimentary consultations.
Keep in mind our previous mantra: more people, more buzz. The aim here is to grow as much hype around your appearance as possible, sparking the interest of other attendees. Boldly pre-marketing your appearance can make all the difference between a quiet, boring display and a bustling, successful presentation.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
This last tip shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it bears repeating. Too often we convince ourselves to procrastinate on planning a public appearance. It isn’t a high school science project that can be whipped up the night before. Public appearances are invaluable ways of getting your message to the community that needs to hear it the most. As such, we should invest the same amount of time and thought into them that we would pour into a client’s project.
As soon as you book with the convention venue, do your research. Get an idea of who else will be marketing at the event, and make notes of potential networking opportunities so you can get a head-start on customizing your approach. Take inventory of your marketing collateral. Running low on hand-outs? Order back-up early to avoid sloppy, last-minute rush orders. Are you traveling to the event? Square away travel arrangements ASAP as hotels around the convention center will likely fill up quickly.
Make a routine checklist to go over before each appearance. This can be as detailed or as vague as you wish. Go over the checklist two or three times; maybe once a week ahead of the appearance, and then again the day before. Choose a system that works right for you and stick to it. Having this in place will keep you sane and stress-free, ensuring you are as organized as possible before encountering your next big crowd.
Conventions and trade shows are perfect for interacting with members of your industry, learning about other businesses, and forging successful client and partner connections. By sharing these pointers with you, hopefully I can help make your next exhibition a breeze.