Knowing how to make a lasting impression at a trade show is easily quantifiable by the financial success in the following three months. Why three months? Because that seems to be the time limit of many people’s memories without having to give a more detailed prompt of where you met.

One of the biggest mistakes so many businesses make at and from exhibiting in a trade show is in not doing any follow up work. In the past, I have even seen some business exhibits who haven’t even collected follow up information in the form of business cards, email addresses or phone numbers. These are the types of businesses I don’t expect to see at the trade show next year.

Exhibiting in a trade show is expensive. The cost of a stall, the stall exhibits, the personnel to staff the exhibition, the delay in daily production, and the emotional output a good staffer on an exhibit expends is enormous. Not to mention tired feet and aching legs after standing and continuously talking to people for a few hours. Unless one has actually participated in one of these trade shows it is difficult to understand why and how they can hurt so badly.

The best reward for this gigantic effort has to be a lasting impression to every person or business that can be garnered through making personal contact with everyone that is spoken to.

Six essential considerations if you want to make a lasting impression at a trade show:

* Have friendly people who are staff members or who know the business well. Any person on an exhibit will need to be a ‘people’ person and have above average communication skills.
* Have an interactive exhibition. Movement, colour and sound will attract more people into your stand than a static site. Static sites can be boring no matter how well they describe your business.
* Provide a break every two hours for members of the team who are on your stall. It is extremely hard on feet and legs when standing and talking to people continuously. Also provide a good supply of water both for staff members and for the general public. By offering people such a simple convenience as a drink of free water will make them think kindly of you and your business and they will remember you.
* Run a competition or offer a prize for anyone who leaves their business card in a box. Have a guest book or an ideas or suggestion box for people to leave their contact details. Obviously the more details they give to you the better but make it simple for them to leave as much or as little information as they are comfortable doing so.
* Do a ‘swapsie’. That is, they give you their business details and you give them a free pen or some other useful advertising item with your business details. T-shirts are especially good for this type of deal.
* Most importantly, follow up every lead from every contact whose details have been left. Dedicate a staff member to do this as it is the whole point of exhibiting in the trade show. There will be some contacts made that only the boss can follow up on and these need to be prioritised immediately.

Following up on leads and the contacts made from a trade show during the first week after a show can be very profitable and many will lead to long term business deals. Trade shows are the ultimate way to small business network because you just never know who will also be exhibiting or walk in out of the crowd and what they can do for you or you for them.

Trade shows can be really, really exciting but it is up to you to take the first step and set up your exhibit in a way that will impress and attract the businesses that you are looking to do business with.

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