This is usually one of the most exciting dates in the calendar for me.
As far as Trade Shows go, it’s probably not one of the most upmarket events you could ever attend. Smokey Joe just sets up a big tent in the beer garden round the back of the Small Business Bar.
But as we’re such good mates, he always lets me run my own Martin Print Display Booth for free, and I find that it’s a good opportunity to help me promote my wares to the slightly confused crowd who mistakenly thought that they were walking into some kind of beer festival.
Unfortunately, I was unable to run the booth myself this year following a painful foot injury during a tense game of Chess that spun wildly out of control.
However, our young designer Josh gallantly offered to come to the rescue and save the day.
Well, that was the plan anyway…
Literally thousands of popular Trade Shows pop up around the whole planet every year, and I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of them are run in a slightly more professional manner than Smokey Joe’s annual effort.
But it’s perhaps surprising how many Small Business owners seem shy of taking the plunge and setting up their own attention-grabbing booth or stall.
Its well worth keeping your eyes and ears open for an upcoming Trade Show that could potentially suit your business right down to the ground. They can often prove to be a perfect opportunity to interact and connect with a whole new audience whilst exhibiting your products and services in the best possible light.
But it’s generally a good idea to plan ahead and prepare your cunning Trade Show strategy beforehand, as it can be very easy to make costly mistakes which could potentially disappoint or even drive away that new crowd.
When Josh offered to take over the running of the Martin Print booth at this year’s event down at the Small Business Bar, I did offer to give him some sound advice and pearls of wisdom that I had picked up over the years.
But he reckoned that he didn’t need any of that nonsense.
Josh had decided that he wanted to put his own stamp on the event with a fresh new approach, and he didn’t want my allegedly old-fashioned perspective holding him back.
Needless to say, the whole thing turned out to be a complete disaster.
As I was unable to attend the event myself, I asked Smokey Joe to keep an eye on Josh and our booth. He actually went further than this, and ended up compiling me a little report on Josh’s performance which pointed out just some of the many areas in which Josh had gone hopelessly wrong.
Smokey Joe was even good enough to include a few expert top tips of his own…
So now it’s over to Smokey Joe himself, as I reveal that report in full, and take a look at some truly terrible Trade Show mistakes which should be avoided by every attention-seeking entrepreneur.
The thing with the Booth Babes was truly unforgivable….
Act As If You Want To Be There!
This might sound like a slightly bizarre opening tip, but maintaining your levels of enthusiasm throughout the whole day can actually be more challenging than you might imagine.
Some of these Trade Shows can last for hours on end, and it’s sometimes difficult to stay upbeat when you’ve spent all day trapped in a small booth surrounded by your own products.
So it’s important to fully prepare yourself for a long day ahead, both mentally and physically!
Josh’s energy levels began to flag very early on. By the end of the morning, he was looking very bored and grumpy and completely unapproachable.
By the end of the afternoon, he was slumped across the table, fast asleep.
Neither of these strategies proved particularly effective in pulling in the crowds.
In fact, a few people actually complained that the volume of the snoring was causing them considerable distress.
Avoid Disappointing Visitors with Stuff They Can’t Buy
Josh had decided to actively promote an exciting and supposedly top-secret product which will be coming very soon from Martin Print, as he thought that this would generate a lot of interest.
He was right. It did.
But as soon as all the interested visitors discovered that the product wasn’t actually available for sale yet, they walked away in disappointment at the whole experience.
Of course, depending on the specific nature of your business, it may well be a necessity that you promote products or services which can’t be bought there and then at the Trade Show Event.
But you should always try to make the availability situation crystal clear right from the start, so that you avoid any risk of raising excitement and expectations, only to deliver a crushing blow of discouragement.
Booth Babes and Clueless Hosts
You’ll occasionally find that one or two corporate booths at a Trade Show will have a fairly odd habit of hiring ‘Booth Babes’ to help pitch their products.
This usually happens when the products or services aren’t quite exciting enough to stand up on their own merits, and so a conclusion is reached that the booth should be populated with scantily-clad women delivering unconvincing demonstrations.
Now, as Josh had been taken by surprise by just how much energy and motivation he would need for this full-day event, he suddenly decided to award himself an extended two-hour lunchbreak to help him recover.
He reckoned that this would be the perfect opportunity to reveal his secret weapon that would stand in for him during his absence….the Booth Babe!
He hadn’t really had much time to organise this though. So, without my knowledge, he roped in Doris, our cleaner, to perform the essential Booth Babe duties.
Well, it certainly attracted attention…
The biggest problem with those corporate Booth Babes is that whilst they may have some degree of audience pulling power, they very rarely know anything about the products or services, and so they don’t have the power to convert that initial interest into custom.
I’m sure that most sensible Small Business owners would never even consider going down this path…but you can still find yourself suffering from a very similar problem if you’re unable to host the booth yourself, and the duty is given over to somebody who simply doesn’t know enough about your business.
Doris may well be the most amazing cleaner on the planet, but she doesn’t know anything at all about our products!
It’s important to ensure that you don’t end up with a Clueless Host running your booth.
It’s not just a matter of standing there and smiling and hoping for the best. The host needs to be completely on the ball and able to deal with any complex question that gets thrown their way – otherwise any potential interest from the crowd will very quickly dissolve when they can’t get any accurate answers.
Give Real Pulling Power to Your Booth!
Of course, it can be a little expensive to book a booth or a stall at one of the more popular Trade Shows.
It might well be the case that you don’t quite have the budget to book that lavish booth in the shape of a giant fairy-tale castle that you originally had your eye on.
But even a very basic modest booth or stall can have genuine pulling power if you give it a make-over and fill it with the right attention-grabbing materials!
A Custom-Designed Banner is a good place to start if you really want to pull in the audience.
X-Type Banners, Roll-Up Banner Stands and Banners with Ropes and Eyelets are ideal for setting up in Trade Shows and catching the eye of the crowd.
It’s also a good idea to cram your booth with a wealth of special custom-designed freebies to hand out to interested visitors, ranging from Keyrings to Fridge Magnets to Beer Coasters.
The Trade Show will be full of people on the hunt for these enticing little freebies, and they’ll be helping you to spread your marketing messages whenever they happily pick one up.
As Martin Print specialise in this kind of stuff, it turned out to be a bit of a shame that Josh completely forgot to bring anything remotely useful, and ended up running a booth with a Ham and Pickle sandwich starring as the main attraction.
Interact With Your Audience!
Finally, don’t forget that you’re just not promoting your products and services at a Trade Show.
This is a unique opportunity to sell yourself and the personality behind your business…so get interacting and connecting with the crowd!
Josh only really attempted to interact properly with the audience when he was desperately trying to determine the location of the nearest toilets.
But it would be a crying shame if you squandered the chance to meet, greet, and charm your new audience.
It can certainly be exhausting when you’re trying to maintain this dynamic enthusiasm throughout the whole day, but it’s important to seize the advantage in this rare opportunity to connect so personally and directly with potential new customers.
So don’t waste it!
Well, this year, it’s fair to say that we had a disappointing result at Smokey Joe’s Annual Small Business Tradeshow Spectacular.
Perhaps it turned out to be a good thing in the end that barely anybody turned up anyway.
With a big crowd there, this could have proved embarrassing…
I’m sure it’ll be a roaring success again next year when I go back to running the show, and Josh just fetches the sandwiches.
But have you ever tried your hand at setting up stall at a Trade Show?
If not, is it something you’d be keen to explore in the future?
Perhaps you’re already a regular attendee…in which case, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs interested in giving it a go for the first time?