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Creating Great ROI with a Booth/Table at a Trade Show or Conference

Fear!  It appears to be around every corner when we are doing new and strange things. How do we learn to handle a crowd with ease and grace?  As a business and life coach for entrepreneurs and small business owners, I have had many occasions to help my clients over these first time experiences.

I remember studying questions that would help me feel at ease in social situations where I walked into a room and I knew no one. I learned how to repeat the name of a person I met and conversed with three times upon introduction.

I used to feel shy and uncomfortable as a twenty year old and over the years grew my ease as I thought of how many others were equally uncomfortable.  I also prepared myself to be a better conversationalist by repeated listening to tapes on How to Work the Room, The Art of Mingling, and Susan RoAne’s, The Secrets of Savvy Networking.  I imagine today there are even more good tips and sources to enable one to become really proficient at networking and conversational skills.  Becoming a good conversationalist is a learned skill. It requires a mix of focused listening and asking great questions because you are interested. People can feel it when you are sincere and they can also feel it when you have an agenda.  So make your agenda about them, not about your sales.  Enjoy the people and your conversations and you most likely will leave with many new acquaintances, contacts and opportunities.

I remember attending a trade show and being struck by how some of the people at the booths acted uninterested if you looked at their materials and were carrying on conversations among themselves. They were not there to introduce their service or products and acted like they wished they were elsewhere. In other booths they were eager to engage with me and helpful and informative.  Guess which booths I enjoyed the most and who I might have bought from, referred, or reached out to later as my needs developed?  

So let’s assume you are going to sponsor or buy a booth or table for an event.

I believe anyone can become successful with ROI from a conference they choose to participate in, IF they prepare for a great outcome and create a basic strategy.  

First… set your intention. Think about what you are doing and what outcome you want to have. Be clear in your own mind. Imagine the best outcome. Just hold that picture in your mind.

Seven points to help you. 

1. Design your lay-put of the booth, if that is what you are using. Put your table at one side or at the back so the space is open and inviting for people to walk in. Set it up attractively.  Put beautiful plants around the corners and flowers or a plant on the table if possible. Prepare your Information and have it attractively displayed. Know what technology or electricity you might need and have it with you if the space does not provide it for you. Set up early and be fully prepared when the show opens. If you are using a table only, have a nice cover and design your layout. Take an attractive chair so you can rest your feet when you have an opportunity. That said, do not spend the day sitting. You will be standing and talking for most of the time you are there. It would help you to wear support hose for your legs and comfortable shoes.

2.  Have a reason for visitors to leave a card for you by offering a drawing for a give-a-way. Use a beautiful bowl or a fish bowl to collect the cards.  I have seen people attach little candy bars, like a PayDay or Gold Coins if they were offering something that would improve the wealth or financial status of the attendees.  Use your imagination or brainstorm for ideas to draw people towards your table or booth.

3.  Make it easy to read what you are about.  Have material that people can carry away with them and make sure you have plenty of cards with you. You never want to run out.

4. You can offer a special price for attendees to the conference within a time frame, like 30 days or 10 days.

5. Have your conference conversation put together wisely.  What do you offer?  Can you explain it in a tantalizing or engaging way?  Is there a statement at the end that causes the person to gasp and say, “Wow, I need that” or “That would surely help me”!  Have some good conversation starters prepared and talk to people as they walk by with saying a warm “Hello, how are you today”, and when they say, “Fine”, you might ask them, “What makes today fine?”.  If you are at a Coaching or Awareness event, here are more conversation starters: “What brings you here today?”  Then, “What do you hope to gain from this event?””Did you enjoy the talk today?” How will it make a difference in your tomorrow?””What’s best or fun about you? Then, What are your favorite interests or hobbies?””What do you do for a living?”  Followed by, “What do you like about your job?””What’s the best thing about your life right now?” Then, “And what is there one thing you would like to change?””Name one of two of your best strengths, what are you really good t?”  Then, “How are your strengths helping you right now?””If you could wave a magic wand and change ay one thing, what would that be?””Are  you feeling stuck in any one area of your life right now?”  Then, “If I could help you to change that in the next 30 days would that be valuable to you?””What is the biggest change you’d like to make in your life right now?  What would it be worth to you to make that change?””What are you passionate about pursing? And what are you eager to leave behind?”Use “What”  questions that open up conversations and stay away from “Why”.

6. Decision time:”What outcome would make a coaching relationship a great success in your eyes?””Here is an example of how I helped someone like you…””Here is how I worked with that kind of goal…””Here’s what I do best as a coach…””Here’s what you can expect if you work with me…””How do you want to proceed?””What step would you like to take out of this conversation to keep moving forward?””After uncovering your BIG GOAL, do you feel that coaching could meet your needs to move forward?””What’s your hesitation about exploring starting a coaching relationship?”Give the person you are talking with your full attention in the moment.  You could offer a complimentary follow-up appointment to any serious person you sense is interested in exploring your service or products further.  It could be a 30 minute phone session. It is like dating, and each appointment you get to know each other a little better and a relationship begins. Remember they choose you, but you also choose to work with them.

7. Always thank people for stopping by. Ask if they have your card in hand.  Be friendly,warm, and give out smiles,  A smile makes you approachable.  It is one gift you give them for free.  Hopefully, you have been able to introduce them to your product and services and piqued their interest.

Remember have fun!  Trade shows and conferences are usually high energy events and you will meet lots of cool people who are interested in your field and industry. It is also fun to see what other vendors have done and gather ideas for your next event.

Kathy Nelson provides Business Success Coaching is San Diego, California.

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