6 Tips for Trade Show Success

Debi and Brenda in front of IBS sign

It’s that time of year again—and no, we’re not talking about the holidays. Trade show season is in full swing as brands, media and industry professionals diligently work to ensure all the details fall into place for a successful event. As an agency that specializes in the luxury home products category, we understand the value of media exposure out at trade shows. It’s a busy few months leading up to the show as we schedule countless media appointments, coordinate and promote client events, prepare creative collateral and much more.

So what happens when, after months of preparation, we arrive at the trade show? The real work (and fun) begins! Our team of trade show veterans have gathered their best tips for how to have a successful showroom experience.

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Be prepared and organized.

  • Be mindful of your necessities and make a list of everything you bring. For example, wear comfortable shoes that don’t sacrifice professionalism or style, and invest in a good backup charger that allows you to charge your phone on the go.
  • Bring a survival kit filled with anything your client may need to look his or her best, such as small water bottles, chapstick, mints and a lint brush.
  • Know your client’s schedule inside and out.
  • Walk the show floor prior to the show’s start to get a lay of the land, so you’ll be able to efficiently get coffee, grab a meal and run to the restroom.

You are “on stage” at all times.

  • It’s important to remember the value of a first impression, listening skills and confident body language. Unless we are behind closed doors, we are always “on stage” and at the show to represent the agency and client.
  • Every booth visitor is a V.I.P. and should be treated as such.

Laurie March, HGTV in the Walker Zanger booth

You are the #1 advocate for your client and their product(s).

  • Know the product better than your client. You may need to give a media tour of the booth if they’re tied up, or even remind your client of key talking points if they become flustered in front of the media or cameras.
  • Actively listen to your clients describe their products and take notes. There are often nuggets of information that can be used for follow-up releases and pitching.
  • Your clients rely on you to protect their down time, so it’s up to you to shield them from anyone trying to impede their meal times, bathroom breaks, and preparation for upcoming events or appointments.
  • Be aware of your client’s objectives and goals. With the flood of media and the uneasy feeling of being on camera, it’s easy to forget how beneficial it can all be. If you notice any frustration, remind your client of how the media or video will help them achieve their goals.

Merlot team filming an interview at KBIS

Push yourself, but know when to take a break.

  • Give yourself 5 minutes to drink water or munch on a snack—keep your energy levels up!
  • This isn’t your typical 9-to-5 schedule. Your days will likely begin around 6:30am and you’ll drag your achy feet back to your hotel room after 8:30pm. Mentally prepare yourself for that ahead of time.

Predict the unpredictable (and don’t lose your cool).

  • Always behave like a duck. Keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath!
  • People will show up early, late or not at all. You can’t prevent this, so all you can control is how you respond.

The Merlot team at the airport before KBIS

Have fun!

  • Yes, you’re at the trade show to work, but it’s important to have fun doing it!
  • Get to know the client outside of work—build rapport with your client and the media, and establish strong, memorable relationships with your teammates.

Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your skills as a marketing professional. Your preparation, confidence and dedication will shine through in the months to follow as you coordinate with the media and build trust with the client. We wish you the best of luck with your trade show endeavors!

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