'The only way to make anything known and understood is to get into communication with people. The biggest mistake people make is being too passive on the trade show floor.'

Jim Kahrs
So you’ve signed up for a booth at an upcoming trade show. Your last trade show didn’t yield much of a return and you hope this one will be better. The show promoters tell you that there will be plenty of great prospects in attendance. But what can you do to ensure excellent results.

Having a successful trade show starts with understanding what you’re looking to accomplish. By definition a trade show is a Public Relations (PR) event not a sales event and must be run under the principles of PR. So let’s look at what PR is. PR is defined nicely in the Hubbard Management System, developed by L. Ron Hubbard. The Hubbard Management System, states that PR is done “to make the company, its actions or products known, accepted and understood”.  

There are some specific strategies that can be utilized to achieve this goal. It starts with planning for your booth. The booth must have more than just equipment and brochures. You should set up a display with pictures of your office and staff along with captions explaining what each one is. This will allow you to give a virtual tour of your facility and company capacities. Customers often have trouble visualizing the full scope of a dealership and are amazed when they see how many people you have on your staff. You should also have customer reference letters on display as these demonstrate what you do and how successful you are. If you’ve won any awards you want to make sure these are displayed and explained as well.  

If you are going to have equipment on display make sure you have the ability to demonstrate the equipment in action, doing jobs the attendees will understand. Pointing at a piece of motionless hardware doesn’t make your company, its action or products known and understood. It would almost be better to not bring the equipment if you can’t show it in action.
Keep in mind, however, that none of this matters at all if you don’t get people to the booth and through your presentation. The only way to make anything known and understood is to get into communication with people. The biggest mistake I see dealers make at trade shows is being passive on the trade show floor. Very often dealer personnel stand idly by waiting for people to come into the booth. You need to get your people out of the booth meeting passers by in the aisle with an upbeat greeting and an invitation into the booth. Another key principle outlined by Mr. Hubbard states that people respond to commands. Don’t ask if they want to see your display, simply direct them. It goes like this, “Hi, how are you today? Step over here and let me show you what we do.” You then lead them into the booth and begin your presentation. When they leave the booth they should know who you are as a company, what you do and how well you do it.

Of course, the reason we do PR is because it is a required step on the way to sales. So if you’re going to participate in a trade show you need to plan for future sales. This starts with making sure you have the ability to collect as many names as possible. If the trade show provides ID scanners make sure to scan every badge you can. If they don’t offer an automated method for capturing names you need to have a back up plan. One very successful method for collecting names is to have a business card raffle. Raffle off an item that the attendees will be interested in and require a business card be turned in to qualify. This list of names will then be added to your database for future marketing and sales efforts.

If you follow these simple steps you’ll have a successful show. You’ll get some immediate prospects and have begun the process of securing future business with others. You will have accomplished the goal of making your company, its action and products known and understood. Dropping out any of the above steps very often leads to frustration and poor future results. So put these PR tools to work for you and start really enjoying trade shows. ​

Jim Kahrs may be reached at [email protected]
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