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Trade Shows and Trade Show Exhibits - How To Get The Most Out Of Your Next Tradeshow

Aug 17, 2007
Trade shows as a key component of every industry, association, and professional meeting. Their importance cannot be over stated for the attendees, the sponsoring organization, and the exhibitors themselves.

Trade show attendees have access to "what's new" in one place. They can check it out anonymously and with no obligation. If they aren't interested they can just walk away.

The sponsoring organization sells space to the exhibitors, money it uses to reduce the attendee's fees and other costs. The individual attendees save money, the registration is lowered to help get more people to attend, and the exhibitors have a larger pool of prospects.

When it is done right, the trade show component of an event is a huge benefit to everyone.

This article will help you be a better exhibit hall visitor.

As a trade show exhibit hall attendee you should focus on spending as little time as possible disqualifying each exhibitor - making decisions quickly regarding the exhibitor's relevance to you. If not move on, don't give them your card or let them scan your badge!

Typically the exhibit hall opens on a day packed with main platform presentations and concurrent workshops. It is likely to be the busiest day of the event - so there is little time to cover every exhibitor there.

But visiting every booth is a must. You never know when someone with a tiny last minute table in the back of the hall by the restrooms has the very answer you've been looking for.

First impressions are critical. Beyond the freebies and the clever booth setups, it's those first 45 seconds that make all the difference - for attendees and exhibitors alike.

Start by asking the company's rep "so, what do you do?" or its equivalent. Whether the vendor hired part time booth bimbos or brought their seasoned sales or technical reps will be immediately clear.

If the vendor is there just taking up space in order to scan the badges of folks who stop by to bag one of the free trinkets - what does that tell you?

If the trade shows exhibitor is serious about building relationships with new prospective customers and connecting with current customers you can be sure the rep will have their 30-second pitch ready.

In thirty seconds a knowledgeable company rep can tell you what they have on offer and what's in it for their target customers. If you like what you hear, bingo, if not move on.

And don't think you are offending the company's rep when you turn and walk away. They don't really want to spend their time with you either - if there is nothing mutually beneficial to talk about.

Of course if you already know what they do, you might start with "so, what's new for 2008?" or something to that effect.

Remember, your objective is simple - spend just 45 seconds with 90% of the exhibitors, so you can invest as much time as you need with those few exhibitors whose products and services can help you.

Ok, now that you've identified the trade show exhibitors you want to invest your time with, what should you do - what questions should you ask them?

First, ask the company rep to tell you the number one question people ask that leads them to their company's solution?

They will know this if they are doing keyword related advertising. What keywords (problems) are they buying with their search engines because the people who have that problem are ideal prospects for the exhibitor's solutions?

This is a first level inquiry, you are trying now to determine whether or not the words they are advertising for are the words you use when you are searching for information about the problem their product or service solves.

Second, do they speak YOUR language? This is an easy way to determine for yourself whether or not they see you as their ideal type prospect or not. If they use examples that are clearly not relevant to you, there's a message in that. If they talk about installations of their products with outfits like yours, there's a message there too. This is a second level disqualification process, to cut through the pitch.

Finally, who are their competitors? They have them, they know it, you know it and they know you know it. How are they superior to them? This will provide a knowledgeable company rep an opportunity to expound on their unique selling proposition. How they react to the question will tell you how confident they are in their application in your situation.

I have attended several trade shows during the last few months. Most recently I covered the Search Engine Strategies event and trade show. I spent several hours in the exhibit hall asking the questions above and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Maybe it was because the vendors were acutely aware of the value of the opportunity to make the best possible impression on potential new customers.

Perhaps it was because they could feel their competitors breathing down their necks and wanted to make their best pitch to the right people - so they asked the right questions and gave the right answers, no game playing to get sign ups to a marketing list.

Or it could be that the cost of being there and bringing their best people to answer the tough questions this knowledgeable audience had for them was great enough to make them focus their efforts on the right actions to get the right prospects on their list for follow up.

And by the way, in case you didn't ask the above questions of the vendors at the last trade show exhibit hall you were in, you can ask them when the follow up sales calls begin.
About the Author
If you want to learn what several trade show experts have to say, visit www.iBizresources.com and click on the search link toward the bottom of our home page. Wayne Messick recently published a report for business owners wanting to realize their company's potential with a little help from their friends at www.B2BPeerGroups.com/.
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