How to Work a Conference/Trade Show Part 1: Pre-Planning

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You just arrived at the Wichita, Kansas Mega Window Treatment Expo, materials in hand, ready to set up shop. You’ve got all your customers and networking partners in one place, so all you need to do now is…what? Scour the walkways for interested parties? Attend as many panels as possible? Stick to the after parties? How do you get the best results from your efforts at a trade show?

Study the Conference

First off, it always helps to have a plan. Part of making that plan includes knowing the terrain of the trade show you’re attending. They’re like snowflakes – no two are the same, and the focus can drastically alter the way you approach it.

Is the Mega Window Treatment Expo panel heavy? If you’re going to be spending most of your time in classes listening and/or speaking, going crazy on a booth might not be economically viable. Instead, spend time on preparing materials you can pass out post panel or work on increasing your knowledge in the panel subjects so you can contribute and get noticed.

Female Bullhorn

Is a huge exhibit hall the main draw of the show? Figure out ways you can make your booth the shining beacon that all others envy. At the Mega Window Treatment Expo, you would expect most booths to be filled with tremendous examples of their work. However, you don’t just focus on pretty visuals, you also add some fun music to your booth. Everyone takes notice and checks your booth our first. Then you wow them with your great materials and you’re golden.

Prepping Your Business

Make sure to carefully select the members of the business you want representing the company at the show. It takes all kinds to run a business, but for a conference, you want the brightest and friendliest folks you can find to really get out there and catch peoples’ eyes and minds. You will be amazed at how much a difference the right team can make.

And here’s Rule #1 for pre-planning: everyone loves free stuff! It’s still one of the best ways to market yourself when you’re faced with a sea of competitors. Key chains, stress balls, koozies; customers use the products, and your name gets out there. Better yet, forego the usuals and think of something new. Matchbooks, maybe, or playing cards.

The matchbook idea is stretching it – you don’t want anything people will use once and throw away. At least with a matchbook, if they do use it, it will be repeatedly before it’s tossed. However, playing cards is a safer bet as they may get used again and again. And every time they are used, your name is flashed to all their friends.

Make sure your team knows what the plan is and what all the materials are. Hold a few meetings to prepare; don’t just send out an email or note and assume they’ll all know what to do, lay it all out ahead of time. More importantly, your team members can contribute and help strategize the best ways to attack the show and get the best results.

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to Squeeze the Most out of the Show!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 8 Shocking Secrets Press Release Distribution Firms Don’t Want You to Know here:

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A great alternative to the matchbook are printed cigarette lighters.

I did a trade show and I gave away lighters. Almost 5 years later I still saw my lighters being used everywhere. I find the best networking tradeshows is done at the hotel bar.


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