Our guest blogger, Marlys Arnold, is author of several books, including Build A Better Trade Show Image and is podcast host for Trade Show Insights. She's also a Lands' End Business Outfitters customer and fan.
Want to stand out from everyone else at your industry's big trade show? Host an after-hours special event. Simply booking a hotel hospitality suite and waiting for people to show up won't cut it. Follow these five tips to create a memorable experience:
1. Set realistic expectations. Understand who and what you're competing against: other exhibitors' events, the desire for attendees to enjoy the host city with friends. Once you've determined how many attendees you plan to host, be sure you have enough staff on hand to work the event. Your team isn't here to party.
2. Select your theme; set the tone with your invitation. Build anticipation and excitement from the beginning. Send invitations about a month prior to the event, but require they check in at your booth to pick up an event ticket. Include a small teaser gift along with the invitation to create intrigue. Plan an event that will appeal to both introverts and extroverts, with plenty of interactive and multisensory elements.
3. Use available facilities and unique venues. Host your event at a popular entertainment venue, such as a yacht, museum, or sports stadium. You'll save time and money on planning, setup, decorations and activities. Use a location unique to your host city to give people a chance to experience the culture of that city. Since trade show attendees' schedules are jam-packed with little time for sightseeing, they may be more likely to attend your event if they can see someplace new.
4. Define measurable objectives. Remember: the focus of your event should be on networking vs. selling. That said, you can still measure the event's effectiveness. Did your staff meet with a set number of new prospects? Did you attract the desired number of attendees? Did you retain guests longer throughout the event?
5. Be strategic to keep costs down. Hosting a memorable event doesn't mean you have to blow the budget. There are ways to get more bang for your buck, including: inviting suppliers or non-competing companies to co-host with you, limiting the event to just two hours and serving light hors d'oeuvres, providing limited drink tickets, and inviting only top prospects and clients.
When you use these tips to design a truly special event at your next trade show, people will be talking about both it and your company for weeks afterwards.
Adapted from Build a Better Trade Show Image © 2002 by Marlys Arnold
About the author:
With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. She travels the country consulting and training both exhibitors and show managers, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image (2002), host of the Trade Show Insights blog-cast, and creator of the ExhibitorEd Success System. To request access to her free video series, 7 Mistakes Exhibitors Make (and how to avoid them), click here.