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Before you ever attend a trade show, you should make sure that the people who are attending are going to be interested in your product. For example, there is no point in going to a show that focuses on consumer software when you sell accounting systems to local government. Before you commit, ask the tradeshow organizers for typical attendee profiles, including a breakdown of last year’s attendees. You won’t get names, but you will get the types of companies that sent attendees, as well as typical job roles.
Once you are satisfied that the show profile is right for your product, you need to decide what you want to get out the show. For example, are you looking for new distribution channels, or do you want to create a splash with a big product announcement? Make a list of these objectives, and then come up with a plan to accomplish them. If you are launching a new software release, you might want to issue a press release or set up meetings with industry analysts. On the other hand, if you are trying to create new channels, prearranging meetings with prospective partners makes sense, rather than hoping someone will show up. The options are almost endless – only limited by your own creativity – but the important thing is to know what you are going to do before you show up, and then make sure you execute.
Getting your booth presence right is also incredibly important. You need to make sure that it attracts attention and is visually appealing. Use bold colors and compelling images to draw people in, and avoid cluttering up your display with lots of detailed text that nobody will read. Stick to meaningful headlines, such as “Reduce your inventory costs by 45%,” rather than giving too much technical detail or saying something meaningless such as “Accelerate your business.” Also, make your booth stand out from the crowd any way that you can – for example, consider putting a prominent banner in front of your booth which people can see from a distance. These can be purchased online from suppliers such as bannerstandpros.com.
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Finally, unless you are Microsoft or Oracle, the chances are that most people at the show will never have heard of you. Therefore, you need to do something to create name recognition before anyone even sees your booth. For instance, consider having your name printed on bags that are given to attendees, or sponsor an on-site wireless newsfeed. These types of promotions are likely to cost you money – in fact, show organizers will charge you for the privilege – but they will make people much more likely to stop at your booth.
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