Small Trade Show Exhibits Invite Creative Bravery


Assuming you’re doing the right thing for the right reason, how can you make your small exhibit compelling?

The best way to promote your presence is by developing a theme, one that your audience can wrap their minds around. Even better, choose a theme that connects to your existing content marketing to reinforce your brand promise, your product, your mission.

Draw real or imaginary lines from your brand, product, or mission to the attributes inherent in the theme, particularly those that resonate visually.

Take your idea to a trusted exhibit house partner. Explain your situation, what you want to accomplish, and the limitations of your space and your budget. If you think you can do this yourself, you’ll be unpleasantly shocked at how complicated the process can be and how expensive mistakes can become. Plus, with an exhibit house partner, you will have the intellectual capital of design professionals to help you refine your theme and your message.

Explore available sponsorships that allow you to pull through your theme and that fit within your budget. If none is available, talk to the show organizer about creating one. Don’t assume because you are presented with a list of sponsorship options that you are limited by what’s on offer.

Promote your presence before the show:

Consider this: before attendees get to the show floor, all exhibitors are on a level playing field, so promote your presence pre-show. Use your in-house mailing list to contact clients and prospects. Most shows will allow you a one-time list rental of the audience segment you want to reach. Your pre-show promotion should be consistent with the theme of your exhibit, again, if at all possible, using an existing asset from your content marketing strategy. Also, offer a what’s-in-it-for-me call to action. This might include a themed giveaway, activity, coupon, or catering. Everyone at the show is dispensing information—go beyond that.

Use social media as much as possible to promote your exhibit, and encourage everyone in your company, particularly those in sales and marketing, to do the same. While you are at the show, social media posts are a must.

Create an email signature that displays the show information and your booth number—once again, encourage everyone to use it.

What about at the show?

Consider hiring a brand ambassador. Say what? Rather than bringing in people from around the country to staff the exhibit, bring two or three key people—and then hire a professional crowd gatherer to help you build traffic.If you hire local talent for this, you will probably save money as opposed to paying for air fares, hotel rooms, and meals for staff.

Your exhibit partner will tell you this, but do not put barriers between you and attendees. So many people exhibiting in small spaces stand behind a counter or table—worse, they SIT behind a counter or table. You need to appear accessible and energized.

Invest in a lead/data gathering mechanism, either the one offered by the show contractor or something you develop in house. You won’t remember the people you encountered the week after the show, and the record will help you document next steps.You will be able to send the leads to the appropriate people for follow up in a timely manner. You can also use the data to send a simple thank-you-for-visiting-us note.

You may have heard that attendees are attracted to large exhibits. That’s true, but not everyone can have a large exhibit. Many of these anchor exhibitors have been attending your show for years and have built up priority points. But because you’re a small exhibitor is no excuse to abandon your goals. There might be a limit on your booth size or your budget but there is no limit on creativity.
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