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Your First Trade Show Ė Donít Make These 5 Common Mistakes

Getting ready for your first trade show is both exciting and stressful. You have enormous hopes that your display will bring in tons of orders and new business, but youíve seen similar companies land on their butts at a trade show. To get the most out of your first show, avoid these 5 common beginner's mistakes.

Mistake #1: The first mistake is to go into the project without a clear understanding of exactly how much it will cost. Will you be charged additional fees for items like electricity, for instance? Will there be a fee that must be paid to bring your booth from your truck to the exhibit floor?

There are several ways to avoid costly mistakes, and the most obvious is to ask as many questions as you can think up. But if youíve never been to a trade show before, you may not know which questions to ask, and the one you donít ask could be expensive.

So try to find a local company that did the same show last year, and give them a call. Ask them if thereís anything you should know about the showís costs that might not be obvious to a newbie Ė most business people are more than happy to help out their fellow entrepreneurs, as long as you donít call up a direct competitor.

Mistake #2: And about your staffÖ If youíve ever attended a trade show as a potential customer, youíve noticed that some booths catch your eye with appealing displays and graphics, and the offer appears to be exactly what youíre looking for, but the staff canít answer your questions.

They may not even ask for your name or make any effort to turn your interest into a potential lead. (Iíve even seen booth staff listening to their iPod).

Clearly, this isnít something you want to happen to you, so do whatever it takes to get your staff steamed up and enthusiastic for the show. Remember that standing on a hard floor for hours will drain anyoneís enthusiasm, so make arrangements for plenty of breaks. And be sure to decompress and check in at the end of each day, to give your staff a chance to share the techniques that seemed to work, and the ones that donít.

Mistake #3: Have you ever made a purchase or given out your name and address to a salesperson simply because they seemed ďnice?Ē Probably not. You like to buy from people who are interested in finding out what youíre looking for, what youíll be using the item for, what your problems are and how they can help you fix them. So be sure your staff doesnít simply say ďhiĒ to the people who come to your booth.

Itís difficult to concentrate on one person when so many people are milling around, but itís worth making the effort. If you donít, you simply turn yourself into a robot handing out brochures Ė and that rarely turns your booth visitors into solid leads.

In the weeks leading up to your trade show, have regular meetings with the staff who will man your booth. Get their ideas on how to engage the display visitors, without being overwhelmed. Then use your daily debriefings at the end of each show day to see if the techniques worked.

Mistake #4: This one seems obvious, but setting a specific goal often gets lost in the mad rush to get everything ready for a trade show. What do you really want to get out of the show, in terms of ROI? How many new orders will make the effort worth the time and expense required by the show?

Are you looking for leads, for press recognition, for solid sales? If you donít have goals (and if each member of your trade show staff doesnít have a goal) you may just end up giving away a lot of expensive brochures. And you could do that in front of your local supermarket.

Mistake #5: Donít get carried away with an expensive, complicated display. You may even want to call your local trade show display company and see if they will rent a used pop-up display, so your up-front costs will be as low as possible.

Then concentrate on creating a sign that makes your offer as visible and clear as possible, and put your effort into training your staff. This will usually bring far more ROI than a fancy trade show display booth on your first time out.

And be sure to use a display that is easy to set up Ė you donít want to get to the show and discover that youíve left an important part at the shop, or that you donít have any idea which pole or widget goes where. Select a simple display, and then set it up in your shop before the show to make sure your staff knows exactly how it all goes together.

Your local trade show display dealer can be an excellent resource for you. But there may also be hidden costs, so ask as many questions as you can. Your success will be important to the display dealer, because they want you to come back when next year's trade show comes around.

About the Author: Are you looking for a trade show display dealer in your area who can help create a successful and profitable exhibit? Come visit the authorís site at

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