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How to Have a Successful Trade Show Event without Overspending

In the age of the Internet, it’s easy to connect with a large group of customers and prospects while keeping expenses down. However, the loss of quality face-to-face time for building trust and fostering relationships can cost you business. As you assess your options for travel and coordinating schedules between numerous VIPs, you begin to realize that it’s difficult to find an equitable balance between budgets and building awareness for your business, while generating leads and holding productive meetings. Suddenly, the thought of participating in a trade show event starts to make sense.

Here are four tips for planning your next trade show so you can maximize your ROI.

1. Plan Your Labor

If you’ve never planned a trade show event before or if you will be setting up a booth in a new town, make sure you check the local laws regarding unionized labor for I&D (or Installation and Dismantle). The regulations can vary by city and state. For example, in Baltimore, if you have a booth that is smaller than 10’ x 10’, you can use two of your staff to perform the installation and dismantle. However, if you need more than two people for I&D, you will need to employ unionized labor. If it takes more than an hour for set-up and tear-down, you will need unionized labor. If you need to stand on a ladder, use power tools, or require an electrical drop to the power consuming devices in your booth, again, you will be paying for unionized labor. Your staff can carry in small items in one trip, but they cannot use dollies or other wheeled carts. Trips requiring these time- and back-saving devices are for unionized labor only.

You need to make an accurate assessment as to how many people you think it will take for I&D, what tools your team will need, the electrical requirements, and more. Otherwise, you will end up paying an expensive bill that you hadn’t originally budgeted for.

2. Go Professional with Pop Up Displays

Unless you work for a major corporation and you’re planning to make a massive statement in the middle of the convention hall, you can create a professional image using pop up displays at a fraction of the cost. These lightweight displays will save you money on shipping charges; they are easy to set up, minimizing or eliminating the need for you to use union labor, and they’re durable so you don’t have to worry about delicate locking/locating systems. They can be customized to match your brand identity and your trade show theme, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

3. Schedule VIP Meetings

Trade show events are an opportunity to meet with a number of customers in one place instead of jet-setting around the country trying to coordinate schedules. VIP meetings allow you to re-establish your in-person relationship with key customers and prospects, update them to your latest product and service offerings, and potentially cross-sell them. When you are planning your event, make a list of key customers and prospects that you know will be in the area. Contact them in advance to see if you can schedule a specific time for them to stop by your booth so you can give them your undivided attention. Don’t merely ask them to stop by. Send them guest passes to the event if they need them. You’ll get a higher return on your trade show event if you spend more quality time with warm prospects and paying customers than waiting to see who may wander through your booth.

4. Plan Quality over Quantity with Your Promotional Items

The purpose of promotional hand-outs at a trade shows is to provide your prospects and customers with something of interest or value infused with your brand so your company stays present with them long after the event. While you want to make the most of your budget, you will end up wasting money by handing out large quantities of low quality tchotchkes. Most often these end up lining the waste bins at the exits from the convention hall or hotel because travelers have limited room in their suitcase. It’s also a matter of standing out in a crowd and building your brand perception. So given the option between something that has utility and will convey industry thought leadership or a commodity item that everyone else is handing out, which would you choose?

For more information about how our trade show event services can help your business save money while creating a memorable event, go to our Contact Us page, or call us at (410)-366-9479 ext. 2#. 

Dina Wasmer is President of Incite Creative, a marketing and graphic design firm that provides brand-building services and strategies for small-to-middle-market businesses and non-profit organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Additionally, Dina is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore teaching typography and graphic design principles. For more information, log onto www.incitecreativeinc.com or contact dina@incitecreativeinc.com 

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