My small, woman-owned public relations/marketing firm, Advice Unlimited, has been serving the Federal government marketplace for nearly 30 years to help companies with innovative technology get their solutions to the government. Every month, I’ll offer unlimited advice on how to work with this unique market. Please email me with questions or comments.

Advice Unlimited

Advice Unlimited

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience!

As we begin to gear up for Trade Show Season in the government marketplace, I thought it would be helpful to review some basic preparations you and your team should go through, to ensure you reap maximum benefits from your significant trade show investment. We'd love to help you leverage your trade show investment through focused pre-show, at-show, and post-show pr/marketing initiatives; if you're interested, contact me at to brainstorm ideas that best support your goals!
Meanwhile...some food for thought as you prepare for this busy season...
Before the Show:
-Think through who will be attending the show, who your target audience is, and clearly define 2-3 individual goals for the show, and 1-2 team goals for the show.
- Reach out to current customers you know will be attending, and set up at least 2 meetings at the show with current customers.
- If there are current customers in the area where the trade show is being held, reach out to these customers and try to set up at least 2 meetings immediately before or during the show.
- Be aware of what partners and competitors are exhibiting, and share that information among all those from your firm attending the show.
- Be sure there is a written schedule of who is manning the booth when, and everyone involved knows when they’re expected to be at the booth, what they’re expected to wear, etc.
- Take plenty of business cards!

During the Show:
- The first day: get to the show floor at least 15 minutes before your shift so you have time to walk around a bit and get a feel for the layout, where your partners and competitors are, where there’s a quiet area and tables for quieter meetings, etc, before you head to your booth.
- Always be at least 5 minutes early for your shift at the booth, so that the person you’re relieving can share any updates or important information with you before they need to leave.
- The first time you go to the booth, take a few minutes to review the demos being offered, literature available to distribute to the folks you talk with, giveaways, any other physical information that will be useful to be most effective while at the booth.
- At the booth: when you’re at the booth, you want to always be accessible to talk to customers or partners, and visually send that signal as folks walk by.
Recommended behavior:
o Stand, face the traffic flow, smile, be alert, look interested in talking with people
o Don’t eat at the booth
o Don’t talk on the phone at the booth; if you get a call that you must take, try to move away or toward the back, and let your booth partner know so they can be the ‘face’ for the booth during that time
o Don’t check emails or otherwise be distracted when at the booth; your focus should be on catching the eye and interest of those walking by to get them to visit your booth
o Don’t block access to the booth, or eye appeal of demo or display – you want people to want to come into the booth, engage you in conversation
- When talking with a potential customer/partner:
o Bring them into the booth by asking them what they’re top priority is at the show, how you can help make this a productive show for them – make it about them
o Have your elevator pitch down – who we are, what we do, how we support the customer in their mission
o Qualify them as quickly as possible: do they use this type of solution, or work for someone who would purchase this type of solution? If it’s not a good fit, always be polite, see if there are any ways you can help them, and disengage gently
o If they are a good fit: be sure and get their business card or contact information for follow-up; if appropriate, set a meeting for some time during the show to talk at more length, do a demo, etc.

After the Show:
- Categorize leads based on qualifications, and make sure the most qualified leads are handed to the right person for immediate follow-up.
- Get your initial follow-up actions done within the first week after the show – everyone you talked with who’s a potential customer or partner should hear from you in that next week, either with a request for a meeting, sending information they requested, or sending a ‘thanks for stopping by’ note to those on your list you plan to follow-up with at a later date, to be sure they get some ‘touch’ from you immediately.
- Fill out your company's show survey so that you have good information for next year’s show; including notes regarding what could have been done better/different.
- Follow-up to close those sales and build those new relationships!