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Trade Show Planning - The BDA 10 - "During the Show"

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My last article on 'Before the Show' planning went on like a broken record about how important it was to have all the details checked and double-checked prior to 'Showtime!'. Well guess what? It doesn't stop there! Sure, you had to have all of your ducks in a row to make it this far, but now comes the make-it-or-break-it phase. This is where you meet real live clients. Are you ready? Here are my top ten things to do DURING the Trade Show to help ensure your success.

During the Show 1. Set up a (fair) booth schedule for your people.

You and your people need breaks for lunch and relaxing. Everyone will be more cheerful and productive if they don't have to stay at the booth all day long. 2. Have your people record all prospect information.

Encourage your Trade Show personnel to record everything they can learn about a prospect's needs. Stress the importance of getting correct phone numbers and email addresses. Create an information form if you have to, or just make sure you get business cards from everyone. Cross reference if you must with the attendees list that most Trade Shows have.

3. Encourage your Trade Show personnel to greet people warmly and smile!

Duh ... But amazingly, this is often forgotten. A warm, open attitude can give a valuable first impression. Your people should avoid having their backs to the entrance, or taking phone calls while on duty. A friendly greeting to passersby may encourage them to stop and chat, rather than walk on by. Booth Staff who are courteous and helpful, knowledgeable about all aspects of the industry, and responsive to requests will make a very good, professional, impression. 4. Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you ...

Trade Shows can be tough on your body, especially if they're longer than a couple of days. Keep yourself hydrated, avoid too much coffee and don't overindulge in the nightly Hospitality Suites (Yah, right ...). Try to eat balanced meals, and maybe even try out the Hotel's Fitness Club. Treat Trade Shows as Marathons - the people with energy to spare on the last day of the Trade Show are still selling, and winning!

5. The name's Bond, ... James Bond.

Trade Shows can be a great place to do a little checking up on the ol' competition. Take time to visit their displays and pick up some of their brochures. Evaluate what you think they're doing right, and where you can learn from their mistakes.

6. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (... and it's cheaper, too!)

Some companies spend a great amount of time, effort, and money researching what kind of display creates the best impression. You can do the same by walking around the Trade Show and seeing what are the most eye-catching, popular booths. Be sure to take a digital camera.

7. Check out NEXT year's location.

If you're convinced that this Trade Show is a 'must attend' for next year, decide now where next year's booth should be located. If you registered late, you may currently be languishing in the Siberia of some back alley, so identify where all the 'in crowd' hang out - and book early!

8. Don't be afraid to 'schedule' prospects.

You've got a hot prospect, but you know they're going to monopolize your time while other prospects wander by. Suggest to them that you very much want to devote more of your time and energy into every aspect of their needs and pain, and book an appointment for them to come back, perhaps during the last afternoon of the Trade Show, a traditionally 'slower' time. (Make sure you have their business card and local contact number, before you let them go!) 9. People (and Staff) are not created equal.

The best teams are not made up of individuals with exactly the same strengths and talents. If someone on your staff is a great 'Greeter', have them pulling people in to the booth and handing them off to your 'Details' people. Don't have your top Closer caught up in the minutia of how your 9457 AT7 widget can interconnect with the 8354 ZX9 gizmo if you add the 3291 HG1 'thingamabop'. And don't have that brainy (but introverted) Tech Support guy try to smooze the room. If your staff are comfortable doing what they're doing, it shows - and it pays off!

10. It's not over 'til the Fat Lady sings.

The booth is being ripped apart, you're tired, and just want to go home and relax your 'smile' muscles, so of course you can relax, right? Wrong! Besides the oh-so-important details like having your display materials actually make it back to the office, instead of spending a week in Hoboken, you're still in a prime location for making (albeit, brief) contacts. Keep the energy up; trade business cards in the elevator or while waiting for the shuttle, because you just know that 95% of your competition have already stopped selling.

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Jim Hawkins works at Windward Software, developers of Point of Sale software, and, among other things, is responsible for organizing Trade Show attendance. While he doesn't actually attend many, he does love to tell people what to do.

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