Trade shows and conferences can be incredibly effective marketing tools with which to make connections and introduce audiences to your organization, its products and services. We’ve learned a few things about maximizing the opportunities events can deliver -- and making their logistics more manageable.
Without further ado, here are six trade show hacks from Zentist Events Manager Care Gonzalez and Growth Manager Vivi Li. They have organized our presence under extremely challenging conditions – including orchestrating booths and displays 'long distance.’
1. Do your homework.
Research. Research. Research.
n our industry, there are a lot of options to choose from, as many as two events per month. Starting a year in advance, we will compile a list of 20 to 30 possible shows and conferences. We’ll refine that list to 10 shows, ideally scheduling one event per month. Criteria include making sure attendees are a good match for our marketing objectives. We want to connect with current and prospective customers along with industry partners. We also want to know what kind of media exposure the event receives and its reputation within the industry. Internet research is key. You can also ‘put your ear to the ground,’ using social listening / social media to determine if an event is a good fit.
2. Spend a little, learn a lot.
Sometimes the only way to determine if an event meets your criteria is to ‘just do it.’ When in doubt, make a minimum investment in booths and sponsorships to test the waters.
3. Maximize your opportunities.
When an event is a good fit, invest in it. Good events make it possible to quickly and easily meet a lot of people in your industry and are worth financially committing to. This doesn’t just mean buying expensive sponsorship packages and larger booth sizes. Be creative and craft unique experiences. Attendees doing the trade show circuit will appreciate the effort and remember you. For example, we have planned happy hours tailored to the locale and scheduled for downtime. These provide networking opportunities along with a chance to decompress. A more informal atmosphere can help create lasting professional connections.
Additionally, consider your swag and giveaways – whether it’s a drawing for a seven-day Hawaiian vacation (which we’ve done) or high quality, branded tech and clothing items. Events Marketing Manager Care Gonzalez reports excellent returns and feedback on thoughtful promotional items and gifts. She again advises taking your audience into consideration along with event location. For example, beanies, hats, and scarves are more suited to wintertime events and cooler climates. Recipients will be likely to make use of them on the spot, driving more traffic to your booth along with creating brand awareness.
4. Calculate your ROI.
Tracking your event expenses along with leads generated and deals closed doesn’t just make your boss happy, it helps you decide if an event should remain on your organization’s calendar. Often event returns are separate and siloed from booth costs, travel expenses, and merchandise expenditures. Merging this data in a visual form will help you determine and communicate an event’s value.
5. Use events as a stepping stone.
The next logical step for some organizations is to create their own, branded events. Trade show and conference attendance provides a wealth of information regarding what works and what doesn’t. Producing your own event can offer significant branding and reputational returns, staking out your own territory in the industry. For example, Zentist identified a lack of professional development opportunities for revenue cycle managers. Our experience as an attendee positioned us to create an event that not only meets a professional need but keeps participant comfort at the forefront.
Every event, whether you're hosting or 'guesting,' is a learning opportunity. In addition to tracking costs and returns, keep notes on planning and logistics, your successes and failures. Start with creating a document and inviting team members to contribute notes and feedback. This data will inform your planning moving forward.
We’ll see you on the road!