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10 tips to maximize your trade show investment

3.5 min read
Three entrepreneurs and a discussion panel host on stage at the FCC Food and Beverage Summit.

Find every opportunity to engage.

Exhibiting at trade shows can feel daunting to food and beverage processors. Still, when done right, they present an opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded individuals, grow your business and expand your brand awareness.

"It's a family coming together. And the shows organized by the industry are 10 times better because of a vested interest in it,” says Sue Exner, regional marketing manager, FCC.

Here are 10 strategies for a successful trade show experience:

1. Match the trade show with your business goals

"If you have a clear blueprint of what you’re trying to do with your business for that next step, then that will help determine what you want to attend,” says Exner. “Trade shows are expensive, so you need to make sure it’s worth your while and that there’s value there.”

Go to the show's website and see what they offer, whether it's a conference, speakers or mingling events, to determine which one is the best show for you.

2. Make a list

Prepare for the trade show by creating a list of paperwork, booth supplies and products you’ll need.

“If you have a three or four-day trade show, it can get pretty exhausting," says Paul Léost, FCC social media consultant and co-owner of Gravelbourg Mustard. "Have a checklist of things you must bring, such as trade show forms and food safety certifications, so that you are fully prepared.”

3. Consider your comfort

Standing for three to four days straight can be physically and mentally exhausting. When setting up your booth, Léost recommends bringing ergonomic mats to reduce back and leg strain and a packed cooler to provide quick energy and hydration during those busy show days.

4. Have payment options

If you're selling products, make it easy for consumers to purchase them by offering various payment options, including a cash float and the ability to take credit cards, debits, and e-transfers.

5. Carry extra inventory

Bring lots of inventory to avoid running out mid-show when planning for a show.

“If you have a three-day show and you don't have enough stuff for Day Three, you can't leave," says Léost. "Bring extra. Taking some product back is better than running out."

6. Put the phone away

“Are you welcoming and inviting people to your booth?” asks Exner. “If individuals are not acknowledged when they walk by your booth, they will most likely keep walking. And that is a missed sales opportunity. "

Using your cell phones can inadvertently communicate that you're not interested, so limit your time.

7. Create a memorable experience

Invest some thought into how you will create a memorable experience at your booth, whether by offering samples, creating a beautiful display or incorporating a digital experience.

"Do something unique that people will notice and tell others about," says Léost. "Most importantly, have fun so that your booth becomes a place people are drawn to."

8. Share your story

When selecting visuals, choose the ones that convey your company's message. This will help to build a community of individuals who resonate with your message and brand story.

"Consider what part of your story you can share that would draw people in and then use your booth to communicate this," says Exner.

9. Ask for help

Working a multi-day conference can be exhausting, so don't try to do it alone. If bringing extra staff is not possible, see if the conference has a floor gopher to cover your booth when you need to step away.

10. Make it digital

Integrating QR codes at your booth experience provides an excellent tool for showgoers to learn more about your product. However, don't stop there. Consider offering a digital business card so showgoers can easily access your business information after the show.

Trade shows provide an opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded individuals, and your booth becomes a space to showcase your brand story. Take advantage of this opportunity as much as you can.

"It doesn't matter if it's hour one or hour 10, have fun and engage with people," Léost says. "Find every opportunity to engage, whether it's the customers walking the floor or your booth mates. Don't wait for them to come to you - draw them in."

Article by: Anne-Marie Hardie