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Ten Things to Consider Before Signing Up to Exhibit at a Trade Show

Is trade show participation part of your 2018 marketing plan and budget? Trade show participation can be an amazing way to gain visibility and customers for your business or an expensive boondoggle. Before you commit to purchasing booth space, here are ten things to consider:
1. Have you attended this show before? If not, I would suggest you consider attending once before investing in exhibiting (I call this a “re-con” mission–you can get a better feel for the show: who attends, what will it take to stand out/attract people to a booth, etc. and you can still network and setup meetings to gather feedback and make contacts.

2. What does attendance look like? Who really attends the show? Get an understanding of attendance makeup (breakdown: attendees (and who are the attendees by title, etc.) vs. exhibitors, presenters, etc.). Will the show share a list of registrants in advance so you can do some pre-show outreach? Is there a cost associated with getting the list? Can you get a sense for whether attendance has grown or shrunk in recent year?

3. Are there areas/pavilions that would make sense to be in (rather than the general show floor area)?

4. Can you look at a map and select your exact space number (to determine who is exhibiting by you/high traffic areas)?

5. Are there other opportunities to get in front of attendees (speaking opportunities, hosting cocktail receptions, sponsorship, giveaway in trade show packet, etc.)?

6. What is the booth investment (space, electrical, wireless, carpet, furniture, name badge scanner, etc.)?

7. And then you will have to determine additional costs: Booth presentation (booth hardware, signage, marketing materials, attire, giveaways, etc.), travel/lodging, meals, etc.

8. What will you need to do to drive people to your booth and keep them there/engage them (giveaway, engaging demonstration, etc.) and how much will this cost?

9. Outline clear, measurable goals for participating (what would success look like? Is this a customer discovery/research opportunity? Sales opportunity?)

10. Think about what you charge for your product and what your Customer Acquisition Cost needs to be–I would recommend over-estimating the cost to participate and then figuring out how many customers you would need to acquire to break even. Then, consider what other marketing/sales activities could you do to generate that kind of activity (and for how much investment).