For many new startups, exhibiting at trade shows and industry events is a key part of getting the word out about their products or services – as well as networking with key people who could later prove to be instrumental to the success of the business.
However, these events are typically extremely busy, with large numbers of exhibitors all vying eagerly for attention from the crowds of attendees. Often, it isn’t enough to “just turn up” – and small, newer startups can easily find themselves overlooked in the throng.
Of course, this can owe a lot more to presentation than it does the actual merits of the company – and by introducing your business with style, you can ensure you make a great and lasting impression.
Quality exhibition signage
It’s an unavoidable truth that bland and uninspiring booth signs are unlikely to impress visitors to your exhibit. In the crowded ecosystem of the exhibition show floor, signage is about making a splash and definitively standing out.
Bright and attention-grabbing colours and large, high-quality graphics are certainly a must – but in addition to getting the aesthetics of your signage on point, it’s important to master the messaging.
Do your signs communicate quickly and clearly what your company offers? Is your logo presented in such a way that it will be clearly visible from across a crowded exhibition floor? Can your text be read from a distance? Why not look up your competitors on Facebook and see if they have pictures of their booth from a previous show – and design something completely different to contrast from them as much as possible?
It can be crucial that your signage appears professionally made – it’s important for small startups to allocate their funds prudently, but it’s not advisable to cut corners with printing if it’s going to make your startup look inexperienced. Really slick, high-quality bespoke exhibition signage can make all the difference to how visitors will perceive your brand (and remember, the show might prove to be the venue of your first meeting with a major new client or business contact).
Memorable booth staff
Sending the right people to represent your startup at the show is a big decision – it can be tempting to send only the most knowledgeable individuals who can talk about all the technical details of your offering, but it’s also important to pick representatives with excellent “people skills”.
After all, you’re not just attending the show to present a fact-sheet about your business; you’re there to meet, greet and make connections. Customers like to buy things from people they like, and business contacts want to be charmed.
Having friendly and personable booth staff is only half of the story, however – to really stand out on the show floor, your representatives may have to go the extra mile to wow attendees. Could they all be dressed to a theme, or with some sort of notable novelty? Visitors are likely to remember the one booth where all of the staff were scooting around on roller skates!
Of course, any outlandish costumes should ideally be somehow complementary to the theme of your business (a FinTech startup with “respectable and trustworthy” branding probably won’t benefit from dressing like clowns at a trade show) but strikingly-presented staff can become a major attention grabber when done well.
Interactivity and demonstrations
Especially for startups – who often deal in the novel and never-before-seen – it may well be insufficient to simply describe your concept to everybody who visits the booth, as there’s a good chance they won’t intuitively “get” what you’re outlining, or immediately see the benefit.
Alternatively, if you could find a way to put your product in the visitor’s hand, get them to wear it or otherwise give it a try, there would be a greater chance that your offering would be understood and appreciated.
Retail professionals have long maintained that if you can get a customer to physically pick up and hold an item to examine, they will be more likely to actually buy it than if they had merely regarded it “passively” sat on a shelf (having already developed a little emotional interest from interacting with it). At the end of a long trade show, visitors are likely to best remember those products they palpably held in their hands or personally used – and not the ones they only looked at in passing.
Freebies are a great way to attract exhibition attendees to your booth – the only problem being that everybody gives things away at trade shows and conventions. Mostly the offerings are the usual fare: pens, cards, keyrings, cheap mugs and other branded tchotchkes that attendees will gather by the bagful. To really stand out from the crowd your startup will need to offer visitors something more inspiring and memorable.
Of course for the best effect, the exact nature of this “interesting giveaway” would derive from the concept of your startup. If your company sells an invention for pet-owners, the freebie might be something pet-related (there probably won’t be many exhibitors at the show giving away branded dog food bowls, for instance); if it’s an app for taking photographs, you could hand out customised items incorporating the visitor’s own selfie – and so on. Creativity, as ever, is the way to go.
Another good giveaway might be refreshments. Exhibitions are generally sprawling affairs held in very large venues, and attendees might be tired, dehydrated or hungry by the time they pass your booth. Generous supplies of food and drink could inspire fatigued showgoers to make a beeline for your stand, and they are quite likely to be interested in what you have to sell if you’ve furnished them with a delicious slice of cake!
Ultimately, exhibitions are expensive, involve months of planning and can be instrumental to the success or failure of any startup – so why arrive with a half-baked booth? By starting the preparations early and allocating a healthy chunk of the marketing budget to your public appearance, a startup can really maximise the effectiveness of its time on the show floor.
In the end, there are countless things a small business can do to make a big splash in the exhibition venue. From top quality presentational polish and friendly staff to big PR stunts and creative giveaways, there’s always something a startup can do to strikingly set itself apart from its legions of competitors.
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Submitted by Medash Signs.