Tips on trade show etiquette and how to be the coolest booth on the block
At the recent Asian American Journalists Association conference held in Los Angeles, I mixed and mingled with member of the media at the Marketwire booth. Not to toot our own horn, but it was an exhibit-hall-hotspot, and on more than one occasion I heard, “This is the booth I was telling you about!”
So, what are some of the secrets behind trade show success? How can you ensure rush-hour traffic throughout the day? What do visitors want to talk about? Personally, I can only speak to media-based conferences, so I consulted the article Tips for a Successful Trade Show, written by trade show expert Janice Byer, and came up with this terrific list:
- Have an eye-catching display. The Marketwire booth is large and bright red, with our name and logo prominently displayed. I’m always sure to keep my table neat and tidy, with a surplus of promotional giveaways – booths that are sparsely decorated or stocked can look shabby.
- Look the part. Depending on what kind of conference you’re at, the dress code may differ. You don’t want to show up in jeans and a T-shirt to a business journalism conference, just like you wouldn’t wear a full suit to a more casual social media expo. So, do your research and be sure to dress appropriately. Business casual is usually a safe bet. Look professional, yet approachable.
- Offer something a little different. Know your audience and who the other exhibitors are and make a conscious effort to have your giveaways and promotional items stand out from the traditional trade show swag. Bring something to the table that people will use every day and associate with your brand and its message. Some trade show favorites that I’ve seen include:
- USB flash drives
- Reusable grocery bags
- Gift certificates for your services
- Marketwire earbuds — they’re always a favorite.
- Especially for journalists: retractable pens with a sturdy clip so they can always have one handy, and the long and skinny traditional reporter’s notebook for something to write on.
- Keep a portfolio of your work handy. Whenever the Media Relations team attends a media conference, we keep web pages bookmarked that showcase previous online relationships we have developed in order to demonstrate our services to attendees and how they can benefit from them. I also print out screen shots so that they have something to take back to the office with them. Have concrete examples of previous successes to show prospective clients what you do and how you do it better.
- Be the person in the room that everyone wants to talk to. Multiple attendees and fellow exhibitors approached my booth with friends or colleagues saying, “You have to meet Emily from Marketwire.” A warm, friendly personality is a great start, and, there are a number of tips for getting people to want to interact with you:
- Be friendly and knowledgeable. Again, this should pretty much go without saying. But take the time to listen to people’s questions. Anticipate that other people will have the same inquiries and then and then answer them before anyone even asks. For instance, journalists these days are most interested in multimedia content — photos, videos, etc. So have information ready about how your company takes initiative to stay current with those trends.
- Talk about non-work-related matters. Develop an easy rapport — easy topics include the weather, nearby restaurants, and current books and movies. If you bond with someone over a shared love of chocolate malts or an interest in Mad Men, he or she will likely stay tuned and better connect when you go into business mode.
- ALWAYS get a business card and connect immediately. Send a “nice meeting you” e-mail as soon as you can so you remain at the top of the person’s mind — and beat everyone else to the punch.
Do you have any additional tips or suggestions that have worked for you? When you attend conferences, what attracts you to a particular booth?
Marketwire will be at the Online News Association conference in Washington, DC, October 28-30. If you plan on attending as well, please drop by our booth, say hello and pick up a complimentary pair of earbuds!