What You Need to Know Before Attending Your First Trade Show

what InLoop thinks you need to know before attending your first association trade show

Tips for Success at Your First Trade Show Exhibit 

Whether your association is just starting out or you’ve stood the test of time, attending your first trade show can be pretty nerve-wracking. You want your first trade show to be a successful outing and be the launch pad for future successful endeavors. 

However, if you’ve never been to one before, it’s hard to know what to expect. It’s also hard to know what common mistakes you should avoid. That’s why we’ve come up with this handy guide for the first time (you and) your association attends a trade show!

be sure to be planning for your first trade show

Pre-Show Planning

The key to having a great trade show experience is proper planning! Planning should begin far in advance, before the actual event you plan on attending. If you were to just show up with your material without prior planning, you’d be destined for failure. And no one wants to be a failure!

Early Registration

Did you know that most shows have dates for early registration? Be sure to research the show you want to attend and register your association the first day that early registration begins! The more time you have to plan for your trade show, the better off you’ll be. 

Not to mention that there are often early-bird discounts for registering your association early. For every penny you save, there’s a penny that can be put towards your success. Register early and you’ll be making this outing the most successful one it can be for your small business or association!

budget is a part of the trade show planning process

Event Budgeting

Setting a budget is critical to having a successful first trade show experience. In fact, without a budget, it’s hard to tell what a successful outing actually is. 

To set your trade show budget, consider the following:

  • What are your expenses? Having a limit on your spending for an event will help you to keep from making your exhibit outing a failure.
  • Record your spending. Without recording what you’re spending, there’s no point in having a budget at all. 

Be Attractive!

We’re doing a lot of logistic thinking about numbers and money, but don’t forget about creativity! No one will want to visit your booth if they’re not attracted to it. Make your booth and your business cards full color with fun designs. You want to accurately convey information, but have fun with it! 

Chances are you already have a creative person working for you who would jump at the chance to use their skills. In addition, video sharing is another great way to bring people by. Give them a show and they’re sure to stick around for a minute! As long as it’s a good show, that is. *wink wink*

make sure your booth is attractive to the trade show attendees

Check the Attendee List for Potential Customers

Almost any exhibit hall you go to will be able to provide an attendee list prior to the event. This list usually comes with a price, but it can have absolutely invaluable information. It’s time to do your research. 

If you know who is going to be attending the show, you can more accurately see how you want to spend your time and efforts. You can find your target market before the building is even occupied. Make a marketing campaign geared specifically towards the groups or people you know will be attending. Being able to tailor-make material or forums for specific attendees will almost certainly net you some positive results.

make a marketing effort on your association's social media platforms

Make a Marketing Effort on Social Media Platforms

Social media marketing is the best way to drum up some buzz before you attend your first trade show. Use your platform of individuals already interested in your products or services to enhance the excitement surrounding your trade show exhibit. Incentivize your followers to share your marketing efforts and expand your audience. The more buzz you create surrounding your association, and the trade show, the more valuable your experience will be.

Setting Goals

Setting goals will ultimately be the only way you know if your trade show was a successful one or not. Without having something to measure against, your only metric for success will be how you felt. While making a couple of good sells feels good, it’s not going to cover your expenses, and you might end up losing money without realizing.

We suggest setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your outing; broken down, this means:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

While the goal to “have fun” sounds nice, it’s not going to pay the bills. A real goal might be… “We want to make x amount of money or sales”. Or… “We want to interact with x amount of attendees”. When you have something specific to work towards, you have a specific goal in mind.

Achieving your goal becomes infinitely easier when the endpoint is in sight. Also, set some smaller goals for yourself. Sure, there are bigger reasons why you’re at a trade show. But there are lots of small successes to be celebrated in addition to the big ones. So shoot for the stars, but don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for your hard work!

know the convention center where your first trade show will be

The Big Day!

The big day has finally arrived! You’re there, you’ve got your trade show displays ready to go. Perhaps your business cards are designed attractively in full color, and you’re just about ready to set up your booth space. What should you be thinking about on the day-of? It’s your first trade show, but we believe in you.

Know the Convention Center 

Get some intimate knowledge of where you’re going to be. No, we’re not just talking about where to get food and where the bathrooms are (although that’s important, too)! Get to know the physical space. Are you far away from any drinking fountains or the food? Maybe offering food or drinks would be just the thing to get someone to stop at your table! 

Know where your competitors are and know where your target market is. Know what your competitors are offering and how they’re advertising. Give yourself the competitive edge of knowledge and planning to circumvent the competition.

Finally! The big day has arrived! It's time for your first trade show.

Give Your Target Audience a Reason to Visit your Trade Show Booth

We’ve done all our research on who will be attending the trade show. You know which competing associations are nearby, so now it’s time to come up with your plan of attack. 

Here are some tips for coming up with great ways to attract an audience:

  • Make interactive content. Entertain your guests! Give them a puzzle to complete. Find a way to involve social media. Giving prizes out is another incentive to get the interaction started!
  • Entertain. You don’t have to be Elvis Costello to put on a show for your audience. It doesn’t have to be music, either! You can perform demonstrations for your products if you have them, or just have a fun game to play while you discuss your association.
  • Provide a phone charging station. When we’re at a trade show, we’re all away from home. You know that means at least one person forgot to bring a cell phone charger, right? And for everyone else, you’ve already been out all morning. Seeing a cell phone charging station at your booth is going to be an oasis in the desert for some folks. So while attendees are charging their phones, what better a time to strike up a conversation?! Mention what else your association can do to help them.
set SMART goals for your first trade show

Being Prepared for Your First Trade Show

Being prepared for your trade show exhibit is going to be the first gatekeeper to success. Make specific and achievable goals for yourself and your association! When it comes to your booth and your promotional material, no detail is too minor to be worthy of consideration.

Success doesn’t come from being prepared for just one thing, but from being prepared for everything. So continue to follow our blog this month and see what you need to do to be ready for your first trade show experience!

The Best Trade Shows in the World for Associations

explore the best trade shows in the world for associations

The Purpose of Trade Shows

Trade shows are one of the best ways to expand your association. Whether it’s expanding public knowledge of your brand or expanding your revenue sources, you need to have your eye out for the top trade shows if you plan on attending one. So where can you find the largest events and the latest products?

With trade shows popping up all over the United States and North America, it’s no wonder they’ve turned into a global event. Check out 12 of our favorite trade shows from around the world, and find out where to collect leads and advertise your products and services next!

But before we start, you should also know that there is no end for places to exhibit your association at a trade show. So check out this handy trade show calendar for trade shows geared for your specific brand in your region.

exhibit your association at a trade show

1. India International Mega Trade Fair

We all know that anything in life is about three simple things: location, location, location. So… where’s the best location? Probably where there are the most people!

The India International Mega Trade Fair is one of the largest trade fairs in the entire world. So no matter what you’re repping, you’re bound to run into your audience here with people visiting from over 100 countries. This is truly one of the most popular trade shows out there!

2. IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Exhibition

Labeled as the “show for shows”, this is where associations come to learn about the newest and latest industry trends and technologies that are shaping the world. Filled with educational sessions, you will leave knowing all about the best new innovations in the industry!

3. Intersec

Intersec is one of the largest trade shows in the Middle East, with over thirty-five thousand visitors attending it’s 2019 Trade Show. 35,000 is no small number. So you know that means they’ve got something everybody wants! Intersec is an especially great showcase for associations within the fire and safety industry.

4. Canton Trade Show

One of the best indicators of quality in business is age. You can’t stick around for over 100 shows if people aren’t interested in what you’re selling. So you know that the Canton Trade Show in China must be doing something right because this Spring will be their 125th show. The trade show covers 13 million square feet of nothing but associations getting out the good word.

make connections and create leads at trade shows specifically for association members

5. Manhattan Momentum

Find out what over 1,000 industry professionals have known for 25 years at this year’s annual Manhattan Momentum trade show. The market their show as one of the best places for learning and connection. They start off their 4-day show with a first-time attendee mixer, so what have you got to lose? Make lasting connections.

6. Event Tech

Here’s one for the associations that are heavily involved with their social media presence. The Event Tech trade show is all about how to utilize the social media presence you have, and how to make it even stronger. In this day and age, social media sets the stage; so find your place on that stage.

explore all the new tech offered to associations at trade shows

7. PCMA’s Convening Leaders

Find out why attendees of PCMA’s show are leaving with their motto “Disrupt+Deliver” on their lips. Convening Leaders strive to figure out how audience behaviors affect their interactions with brands and merchandise. Join in to find out what everyone is saying!

8. The Special Event

Find out what’s so special about the Special Event. Every year The Special Event is host to a great mixture of educational seminars and attendees on the sales floor exchanging ideas and connections for associations.

9. International Confex

Whether your association hosts domestic or international events, the International Convex is a show you’re going to want to visit. Industry leaders and over 350 suppliers pool their knowledge and resources to make this event just as much fun as it is informative.

make long-lasting connections with other association members at trade shows

10. ACCED-I Annual Conference

Speaking of event organizers, let’s talk specifically to collegiate event organizers. The Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International are holding their 39th annual event this March. Find out from over 1,500 campus professionals why everyone is traveling to Pittsburgh to attend this conference.    

11. Pharma Forum

Pharmaceuticals is one of the leaders in the field of science, and the Pharma Forum is one of the biggest meetings of the pharmaceutical minds in North America. This year marks their 15th annual event. See why they say the Pharma Forum is one of “the most impactful networking experiences” in the pharma industry!

12. WEC19

The WEC19 in Toronto, Ontario is an annual event of epic proportions. MPI is the world’s largest meeting and event industry association in the world, and their annual WEC meeting is justifiably gigantic. Come be part of the more than 2,000 professionals attending this great event. Spread knowledge of your association while picking up some of the latest trends and tactics.

attending trade shows around the world will give you more insight about your association

Attending Trade Shows around the World

Well, here’s our list! We talked about some of the best and brightest upcoming trades shows in the USA and around the world. But don’t worry, there’s a never-ending supply of trade shows and events for your association to be involved in and visit.

Check out that show finder link we provided at the beginning of the article to find shows that are close to you and pertain to your specific industry and interests!