Here are several tips and suggestions that will help make your next convention presence a success.

- Plan the show as part of your overall marketing process. Understand what you will need to do after the show with leads and customer prospects.

- Have "collateral materials" or take-aways, so people who met with you or just stopped by have something to remind them about YOUR company, so they can reach you afterwards. These materials should be well thought out and consistent with your organization's overall marketing image and message. If you have a "Show Special" or other time-limited offer, have a separate handout that clearly states the offer's features and its expiry date.

- Plan to have enough people to staff your booth, considering its length and size. You do not want to staff a booth alone, and leave it unmanned when you need to go to the bathroom, or want to scope the competition. If necessary, get non-marketing staff, friends or adult family members to help. If you are attending an international show, have at least one person who speaks the local or dominant language (I've been to a trade show in Germany where a Quebec company had no one who spoke either German or English, and didn't bother with a translator).

- Plan your booth set up and signage. Remember, attendees are walking past your booth quickly: you have 3 seconds for them to decide to stop at your booth. A simple 10-foot booth with just the back curtain (provided free by most show managers) and a table may not be good enough. Portable booth signage (usually a photo panel display) can be bought from many display companies, and can be used at many other occasions (like open houses) but will cost a few thousand dollars. If you need power for computers or equipment, arrange that with the show organizers beforehand.

- Leave plenty of time for booth setup. Get your booth, equipment, and collateral materials to the show or the booth beforehand. Leave plenty of time for setup, fix-ups (after a few shows, the booth will start to show wear-and-tear), equipment malfunctions, and getting over jet-lag. This is the time when Murphy's Law applies most. A good safeguard, especially when several people are each taking part of the show materials, is to set up the entire booth and all components at your premises, and then pack it up, and make sure nothing is left behind (REAL important for an international show,I've seen exhibitors missing signage for half a show waiting for it to be Fedexed after they realized its missing).

- Do not tear-down your booth until after the show is over and most customers have left the hall. You're investing a lot of money to reach all these people,don't shortchange yourself by booking a flight too soon after the show ends, requiring you to tear down during show hours. Often the last minute customers are best: they've already seen the competitors (or maybe not) and are ready to buy NOW!

- Follow up with your leads. Follow-up as soon as you get back, and before you promised them you would. This shows prospects that you are serious, and that you take them seriously.

Some trade show attendees say less than half the people they asked to call them back actually follow-up: improve your chances of a sale by 100%!

- When you are exhibiting at a trade show, you will often need some thing you did not pack with you. There is an exhibitor ethic that if you can help another exhibitor (even a competitor), please do. You never know when it is your turn! This is more true on international shows, where I have seen exhibitors lend their translators for important meetings. When you are a first-time exhibitor this makes life a little less complicated, but in subsequent years, you should return the favor by helping the new rookies out.

This is is not an exhaustive list for trade shows, but will save you many of the most common mistakes that many companies make.

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