Weekly Insights: Working a Show Without a Booth

Graphic: Ballicons © Pixel Buddha

Graphic: Ballicons © Pixel Buddha

Even if you can’t have an exhibit in a big show, you can still take advantage of the opportunity to be there. Use it as a time to research the show for next year, or to just make some new connections in your industry. Save time, money and stress!

Start by setting goals, just like you would if you were exhibiting. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to observe the show itself, study your competition, or network with attendees? You can achieve all of these things.

Register early, so you will receive pre-show promotions. See how much you receive from exhibitors and how much from show management. Evaluate the registration process and logistics of the show itself.

Ask your suppliers, clients and prospects if they will be attending the show. Schedule appointments with them (off the show floor), or arrange to meet them for lunch or dinner. Scan your contact files for people who live in the show’s host city. These people may also be available to meet with you while you’re in town.

Before you arrive, study the show directory or website and plan an agenda for each day. Decide on which educational sessions you will attend. Then walk the show. Scope out your competition. How big are their booths? Are they drawing a crowd? Study the quality and quantity of attendees. Do they meet your expectations?

Be sure to cover the entire show floor at least twice. That way, you can get a feel for the entire show, but still go back to gather details. A word of caution: Don’t ever solicit on the show floor! You didn’t buy a booth, so you shouldn’t be selling at the show. In fact, at most shows, if you get caught soliciting, you will be thrown out!

Afterwards, record your observations and create an idea file of things you’ve learned for use in planning future shows. And if you do decide to exhibit at that show next year, look how well-prepared you’ll be!

(Reprinted from Build a Better Trade Show Image © 2002 by Marlys K. Arnold)

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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