How to Stand Out at a Trade Show, Event, or Conference
Attending events can be a great marketing tool for many brands. Whether you’re attending a trade show, a conference, or something else, events are a chance for you to talk about your brand, increase brand recognition, and engage with customers face-to-face. However, many events are also large, hosting multiple brands who are all trying to accomplish the same goals your brand is trying to accomplish. The key to a successful event lies in making sure your brand stands out from the crowd. In this guide, we’ll show you key steps to standing out at an event, from the pre-planning stage all the way through to your post-event self-evaluation.
Planning for the Event
Arguably the most important factor in standing out at an event doesn’t occur on the day of the event itself, but rather in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the event. To be successful, it’s important to take the time necessary to plan out your event. Every decision, from which marketing materials you’re bringing to the event to which team members are attending, can affect your success. Here’s how to plan for success.
Learning About the Event
The first step to planning for your event is to learn about the event. It’s not enough just to book a booth at the event. Contact the event coordinator to learn what marketing materials are and are not allowed. Ask questions, including:
- How many people they’re expecting at the event
- The size and location of your table
- How much extra space your brand can use outside of your table, if any
- What materials, if any, are provided by the event’s hosts
- What rules do they have about marketing materials your brand may or may not use
- For outdoor events, what’s the contingency plan if it rains or snows
In addition to speaking to the event coordinator, it’s a good idea to do independent research into the event. If you’re attending an annual event like a fair or festival, look for any pictures of the event from previous years. This can give you an idea of how other brands use the provided space and market themselves. Reviews of the event may also give you an idea of how attendants feel about the event and any pitfalls they may have come across. This can help you determine ways your brand can stick out and meet the needs of people at the event. For example, reviews from previous years complaining that the event was hot may encourage your brand to bring bottles of water to hand out.
Defining Success for Your Brand
Goal setting is a critical component in planning for an event. Having goals gives you a tangible way to measure your success at the end of your event and make goals for improvement in the next year. Setting SMART Goals--goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely--can help you focus and make decisions based on what’s important to your brand. For example, if your brand’s SMART Goals emphasize getting new leads for your email lists, then you know that you need to bring an email signup list and writing utensils. If, on the other hand, your goal is to show that your brand cares about the community, you may choose to forego an email sign-up list in lieu of free handouts for community members.
Organizing and Purchasing Materials
Once you have information about your event and have defined what you need for your brand to feel successful, you can begin making decisions and purchasing any necessary marketing materials. For most events, especially trade shows and conferences, high quality table covers are a necessity. While table covers are occasionally provided by the event location, your brand is typically responsible for supplying your own table cover. Branded table covers are a great way to increase brand recognition and catch peoples’ eyes.
For outdoor events, branded tents provide shelter from the elements while also attracting customers from much greater distances. At festivals or fairs, the right event tent can help customers find your brand if they’re searching for you while also increasing brand recognition for customers who haven’t heard of you. Inflatable arches can also be great for outdoor events, especially sporting events and festivals. Giant inflatables can help you stand out against your competitors, solidifying your image as a fun, modern brand.
Once you have your basic marketing materials purchased, you can begin to consider things like merchandise to hand out, flyers or pamphlets, sign up sheets, business cards, product samples, and other items you can hand to customers who come to your table. The organizing and planning phase is also a great time to consider whether you have the budget to create an experience for your customers, which can be wildly successful when done correctly.
On the Day of the Event
You’ve spent time planning for your event and collecting all the materials you need. Now the big day has arrived. To stand out on the day of your event, you have to bring your A-game. Organization, preparedness, and flexibility on event day can help your brand thrive.
Setting Up Your Display
The first thing you need to do on the day of your event is set up your display. Regardless of whether you need to set up a whole display with giant inflatables or if you just need to spread a tablecloth over your table, you want to be sure to give yourself plenty of time to set up your display. Rushing at the last minute while people are beginning to arrive at the event can make your brand look unprofessional and leave you feeling flustered.
When setting up your display, be sure that any branded marketing materials are unobstructed so that you get the most out of your branding. Organize any hand-outs in a logical way, considering the natural flow of traffic and the best way for people to engage with your station. Most importantly, be flexible. Occasionally, an event coordinator may give you the wrong table dimensions for your area or there may not be a plug available when you were told there would be. By arriving early and staying calm, you can navigate these unexpected events and still put together an attractive display.
Engaging a Crowd
The team members at your event represent your brand. If you want customers to think that you are fun, engaging, and inviting, then you need to display those qualities at your event. Regardless of how your day has gone before the event, keep a smile on your face and keep your energy levels high. Greet people genuinely and warmly, and be ready to answer questions about your brand and discuss their needs. This can be a great time to get to know what really matters to your potential customers.
One trick for keeping your energy up through the day is to ensure you have snacks and water with you. It can be hard to step away while the event is ongoing, so you want to be sure that you’re staying hydrated and well-fed. The last thing you want is to come across as unfriendly at an event because you’re beginning to feel a little hangry.
One major reason to attend events is to collect leads. Whether you’re exchanging information with other businesses at a trade show or you’re trying to grow your email list at a festival, getting new leads is often critical to the success of an event.
There are a number of ways you can collect leads at an event. One option is to have a simple sign-up list where you collect names and email addresses. Another option is to hand out pamphlets or business cards with information about your brand on it and an offer for a coupon if they email your brand.
After the Event
One of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is believing that when an event ends, they don’t have to think about it any more. To make the most out of your event, it’s critical to follow up with any leads you collected and evaluate your event. This can not only increase the reach of your event but also help you have more successful events in the future.
Evaluating Your Event
One of the first things you should do when an event ends is evaluate the event. Re-examine the SMART goals you set at the beginning of the event to determine whether or not you met your goals. If you did meet your goals, you can consider whether you can set larger goals at the next event. If you didn’t meet your goals, it’s even more important to analyze your performance at the event and consider all the factors that contributed to that.
Sometimes, you’ll leave an event and realize that it wasn’t right for your brand. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make a notation so that you don’t attend that event again. If, on the other hand, you enjoyed the event and felt it was successful, evaluating the event afterward can help you decide to put that on the calendar next year and improve on this year’s performance.
Following Up with Leads
When you make new contacts at events, whether they’re customers or other businesses, you want to follow up with them as soon as possible. Email lists are a great way to reach out to new customers. You can even have a string of emails you send out to every new customer that helps showcase your products, blog posts, and social media.
The important thing is to maintain contact, constantly proving yourself to be a warm, engaging authority in your industry. Not only does this help people stay familiar with your brand, but it also helps them build trust. In the future, when they’re looking for a company like yours, you want your brand’s name to be the first one they think of.
Events can be extremely profitable for most brands. However, to make the most out of your events, you can’t simply show up. Attendance is only part of the battle. To stand out from your competitors, you need to not only attend, but plan for the event. Put energy into learning about the event, setting up an engaging display, and following up with your leads. This, combined with a careful evaluation of each event you attend, can help your brand reach new levels of success by the end of your event season.