Three Mistakes That Can Prevent Your Booth From Being Successful..And How To Overcome Them.

Preparing for your organization's participation in a trade show or other event may seem simple enough, but there are potential pitfalls that can make your booth less-than-successful. Below are three trade show booth mistakes that will sap any energy and momentum you might otherwise have gained from participation. Avoid these mistakes, and your participation will ultimately pay-off with huge dividends for your organization:

Choosing the wrong events to attend

Before you even show up at an event, you should spend a considerable amount of time researching your possibilities. Your organization has a limited amount of time and money to spend on travel and exhibitions, and going to an event that is irrelevant to your needs is a waste of resources. Below are a few tips that can help you select the right events and avoid the wrong ones:

  • Be cautious about first-year events – there is nothing inherently wrong with hosting a booth at a first-year show, but it's important to remember that attendance is likely to be sparse. Sometimes, it's best to pass up a brand new event until it has had a couple of years to mature and grow.
  • Match your products with prospects – you need to understand who attends particular shows and what motivates them to do so. Contact the hosting organization to discover more about the typical attendee and see if you can obtain attendee lists from past events. The attendee should be a natural prospect for your product or service if you wish to make the most impact.
  • Study the schedule of events – some shows are hosted in conjunction with larger events such as conferences for professional development or other purposes. It is helpful to know the particular schedule, in advance, before registering for a booth; for example, a show held on Friday evening at a large conference is likely to be sparsely-attended as prospective attendees are eager to "see the town". Also, shows around meal times can be questionable if the attendees are on their own for lunch or dinner.

Poorly selecting and training your representatives

Who you send to represent your organization can mean the difference between spectacular success or abject failure. While it can be tempting to send less-senior or newer employees to shows, or use another somewhat-arbitrary criteria for selecting staff, it is in your organization's best interest to send those who are truly capable and engaged. Below are some hints for staffing a booth:

  • Look to your senior staff first – while not every more-experienced employee is automatically suited for staffing a booth, don't discount the knowledge they have accumulated. You want someone with a strong product familiarity to be upfront and ready to share. That's why your veterans should be in the first potential pool of booth staffers.
  • Choose communication ability over knowledge – on the flip-side, it's important to remember that communication ability always beats knowledge, if it comes down to a contest between these two factors. That means you should staff booths with e
  • Employees who understand both the method and value of effective communication.
  • Train your staff – regardless of who you send, you should always conduct staff training for your event participants. Provide staff with written materials and instructions on how to present the material. Be sure they understand they have clear-cut responsibilities to fulfill at the booth; otherwise, staff are more likely to stand around without purpose, and that can reflect poorly on your organization.

Failing to properly prospect

Another mistake is failing to practice good prospecting techniques that will net your organization the most benefit. If your organization relies on product or service sales, then prospecting is your lifeline. Below are some hints that can help you properly prospect when hosting a booth:

  • Collect the most meaningful data – prospect cards tend to ask for the same information regardless of organization. However, you can, and should, tailor your prospect cards so that you can collect data that means the most to you. For example, if you never call potential clients at their office, don't ask for an office phone. But, if social media is a big factor in your marketing efforts, then be certain to obtain Facebook, Twitter or other important account information.
  • Follow-up quickly with prospects – once the show has ended, don't toss the prospect cards in a desk or let them sit for weeks without being utilized. Instead, enter the data immediately into your organization's database or system, and make contact with prospects within a week of the show's end. It is important to make this contact quickly so you can make a connection with the prospect; otherwise, their event memory will fade, and you will be viewed as just another cold calling representative.

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