Washington Trade Show Event Guide

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Washington State Department of Commerce

IT’S SHOW TIME! Now that you’ve made it through all the pre-planning, it’s time to get down to work. Hopefully, all that work you did beforehand will pay off now, as you can focus entirely on working the show instead of picking up loose ends. Think of a trade show like it is show business. The stage is the exhibit itself; the script is your key messages, qualifying questions, elevator speech and product information; you are the lead actor; props are your graphics, samples, collateral and giveaways; and the actual performance is your presentation and demonstration. Your success is the sum of everything, from how well you rehearse to how well the producers (your Commerce team) have prepared the stage. Fortunately, the Commerce team is always ready to help you out on the show floor, from watching your booth while you work the floor to scheduling the meeting rooms and making sure you have everything you need to be successful. The tips and techniques presented here are based on our own lessons learned as well as best practices gleaned from the experts. Each show is different, of course, but this information should help you get the most out of your participation.

• Become comfortable with your space and its surroundings. Store your cases, additional collateral and personal belongings. Commerce normally plans for closet space and/ or lockable storage units for your convenience. Out of sight, out of mind is a smart idea. • Check to see that your electronics are functioning properly. Have everything running before the doors open. • Food and beverages should be out of sight as well. If you need a coffee break, step away from your space. Attendees won’t engage someone who’s having a quick bite to eat. They will simply move on to the next exhibitor on their list. • Keep your space organized and tidy. Clutter on the counter and a poorly kept space can put off prospects. • Remember that the meeting space is for meetings, not relaxation. While it’s tempting to check your email or do some work there, be respectful of others who need to use the meeting space for business. There are a lot of meetings going on throughout the show… after all, that’s why everyone is here! • Plan to attend business networking events set up by Commerce. These are usually conducted in the booth and provide additional value to co-exhibitors. • Use social media throughout the show (more on this in a bit). Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – whatever your clients and the media will be checking. • At the end of the day, write up notes about each meeting you had and any calls to action required as a follow up. • Also, reset your space so it is ready to go in the morning.

SMART SHOW STRATEGIES To deliver on your expectations, here are some things you will want to do. • Pack all your electronics, business cards, cables and charging cords before you leave the hotel each day. • Be early on the first day. You want to be at the booth well before the show opens its doors so you can set up properly and become acclimated. If there is a meeting room in the exhibit space, check with staff to confirm the process for its use. Introduce yourself to co-exhibitors and the Commerce team; they are here to help. For the balance of the show, allow enough travel time to be in your booth before the doors are open so you are ready to greet attendees. • At some shows it is advisable to set up your display materials the day before the show opens. Discuss options with Commerce to finalize your setup plans. • On the opening day there may be an official ribbon cutting. If the Governor, Commerce Director or other state official is along, it’s a great photo opportunity for your company and be sure to share with your local media.

• Dress to impress. Business casual might be the norm in the Northwest, but professional attire at international shows is a little more formal. Suits and ties for men, business suits for women are the norm during shows. When in doubt, err on the side of being overly dressed rather than under if you want to impress your prospects overseas. • Don’t just sit there. Your exhibit space comes with a stool but don’t be tempted to sit in it all day. Get out in front of your space and work the aisle. Use the stool for brief rest periods, but standing up shows that you are ready to make a sale. It sends a very clear non-verbal signal that you want to do business. • Go to a quiet place. If you meet someone on your A-list, ask them if they’d like to go where it’s quieter. Take a few minutes to get them to a place where they have your undivided attention and aren’t distracted by all the hubbub in the exhibit hall. • Don’t be a hermit. Take the time to attend a session or keynote. This is a good place to run into your list of hot prospects. Be visible and work the space so you can promote your company and its products or services. Even if you’re tired, take the time to go anyway.

• Be ready with a bite. A sound bite, to be exact. As you work your booth or the floor, you may come across a member of the media who asks you for a quote about the show, your company or your product or service. Be ready with short, prepared answers for them. If you’re uncomfortable with being on camera or recorded, practice at your hotel the night before so the key messages are fresh in your head. • A coat with big pockets. Carry business cards wherever you go. Don’t ever get caught short. Store extras in your exhibit space. A good idea is to store your cards in one pocket and the cards you receive in the other. • Be smart about giveaways. Remember that there are attendees who are all about the tchotchkes. If you have a giveaway, use them strategically. Only give them to solid prospects. And make it something that will wow them. Another pencil or keyring? Forget about it. Go with what’s hot, not what everyone else is peddling. • The same with print materials. If you’ve attended a show before, then you know what happens once you’re back at the hotel and starting to pack. The “take with you” pile is very short. A good way to ensure that your stuff doesn’t get left behind is to have representative samples at the show. You can do your brief dog-and-pony, then offer to email the prospect at a later time. They will appreciate that they won’t have to cart your stuff around and you won’t waste money printing something that will end up in the garbage. This also offers a great opportunity to get an email address for aftershow follow up. • Postcards. If you do decide to hand out print, think about postcards with a brief sales pitch, your contact information and website. These are great because you can carry them with you when you’re working away from your exhibit space. • Three seconds to stick. On average you have about three seconds to engage a prospect. Everyone at a trade show touts their price or convenience. It won’t stick with a prospect who is visiting dozens, and perhaps even hundreds, of booths. Think of the one thing they will tell a coworker about you. Be specific. Be memorable. And keep it brief. • Listen more than you talk. The more you engage a prospect, the more likely they are to follow up with you. Hear their pain points; take the time to get to know them and their business. Start a conversation first, not a sales pitch. • Be assertive, not aggressive. As prospects walk by, introduce yourself but don’t force yourself on them. Realize they may be heading to an appointment or may not be interested in what you have to offer. Come up with a great opening line that captures their attention and imagination. This may stop them in their tracks. • Tell a story. Forget all the statistics. Tell a story about how your product or service helped a customer instead. Tug at the heart strings; show that your offering has the power to change lives, livelihoods or the marketplace. People do not remember statistics; they remember stories.

• Take advantage of the matchmaking. Commerce’s team is here to help you make the most of every moment at the show. Use their business matchmaking services to maximize your ROI. This is particularly true for European shows, as Commerce’s team in Europe has extensive knowledge of the business landscape there.


First impressions are everything at a trade show. You are your company and everything it represents. While being well dressed and groomed is important, so are your non-verbal cues, such as your body language. Let’s start with the simple things. Don’t eat, drink or chew gum in the exhibit space, and resist the temptation to text your friends, check your email or chat with your neighbor. These all tell an attendee that you’re not really interested in engaging them. Remember, you have three to four seconds to get a person’s attention. Make the most of them. Now for the less obvious things. The right body language can go a long way towards attracting prospects. The wrong ones, unfortunately, can be a real turnoff. Here are some of the things you can do to improve your body language: • Eyes High. Try to keep your eyebrows raised. If they are in the resting position, it sends the signal that you’re not really interested in others or what’s going on around you. Raised eyebrows are a welcoming action to others. • Palms up. In some cultures, palms held face down gives the impression that you have a closed mind. Keep your palms up to show you are ready to meet a person and are friendly. • Chin down. A chin held high conveys that you are snobbish and superior to the other person. Keep your chin down so they feel they are on equal terms with you. • Square in, but at an angle. Standing perpendicular to a person gives the impression that you are not interested. Stand almost square, with your feet and body turned only slightly away from the person you are talking to. Give them the space they need, and be relaxed. This also suggests that you are not a threat, but rather, inviting. Don’t cross your arms. It looks judgmental. • Shake, don’t break. Your handshake should be firm but not overly strong. Don’t pump someone’s hand more than once as it can be a sign that you are trying to be dominant. • The eyes have it. Don’t stare directly into a person’s eyes for too long. Show interest, but try to keep your gaze in the eye-nose triangle for roughly two-thirds of the time. A shorter period gives the impression you are dishonest and more can be invasive and make the other person feel uncomfortable. • The cold shoulder. Slumped shoulders show lack of confidence and weakness. Keeping your shoulders out and back shows confidence, strength and a positive outlook. • Feeling shifty. Shifting from side to side makes it appear that you’re anxious to get away from them. Stand still and you will look like you are fully focused on what the other person is saying.


O.K. The show’s over, your bags are packed and you’re flying home. Now what do you do? First, you should know that 80% of all show leads are never followed up on. Opportunities are slipping right through the fingers of exhibitors. To make sure that leads get the love they are due, here are some helpful tips to follow. Prepare your strategy before you go. Devise a manageable plan for following up with all the people you met at the show who were interested in your company, product or service. This will allow you to follow up with prospects while you are still fresh in their minds. Write at night. If you come prepared, you can do a follow up with a hot prospect while you’re still at the show. Pull out your notes back at the hotel and jot a quick thank you note along with a link to collateral or a web page that provides additional information. This will be a lot easier if you’ve been ranking your contacts along the way. Hit the A’s while you’re still at the show, then follow up with the B’s and C’s when you get back to the office. Keep your promises. If you told someone you would get them something, be sure you deliver. If you’ve done your homework and prioritized your target list correctly, you won’t be wasting any of your time and you may turn a key contact into a sale because you kept your word. Ask for an appointment. If you have a hot prospect, ask them for a meeting in your thank you email or note. The sooner the better after the show. The average company takes nearly 40 hours before they contact a lead. Beat the clock and you may just beat your competitors to the punch. Do a debrief. Meet with your team back home and go over the show. Discuss the goods, the bads and the uglies and write them all down in a document that you can file away and use again the next time a show comes around. No one can master a trade show by going once. Build on lessons learned and use them as stepping stones to improving the return on your company’s investment.

2001 6th Avenue Suite 2600 Seattle, WA 98121 206.256.6100


If you have any questions, please contact your Commerce show manager. www.choosewashington.com/ about-us/meet-our-team/

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