Road shows have the potential to be game-changers for small businesses – provided you are prepared. Aon has put together a ‘need to know’ guide to exhibiting at a trade show and help you make the most of your event.

1. Set your objectives.

Before you even book an event, you need to establish your event objectives. These should align with your business and marketing objectives, but, as shows are busy places, you need to have one key objective to focus on so your messages don’t get lost in the noise.

2. Choose your show carefully.

It’s vital that the audience is right for your business so, before you book the event, look at other exhibitors and see if their target audience aligns with yours.

3. Your stand.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on stand design – many professional stand build companies will convince you that you need to spend thousands on design and build, but it is possible to do it on a minimal budget.

A cost effective solution is to design your stand in-house, then hire a carpenter on a day rate to build it for you. You can get ideas for what you want from Google images, or by going to other exhibitions which relate to your sector. You should create a scrapbook or mood board of ideas for your stand.

Keep your primary event objective in mind while you are designing and remember that people may only take a one second glance at your stand before they deciding whether or not to approach so make sure your messaging is compelling, large and clear from every angle.

4. Giveaways.

Lots of stands give stuff away that just ends up going in the bin. If you are going to have a giveaway, think about something that will resonate with your audience as well as clearly communicate your key marketing message. Hangover kits at an event with a boozy gala dinner, puncture repair kits at a cycling show and Rubix cubes are all good examples. Don’t waste money on a giveway if it’s not going to add value to your stand.

5. Tell everyone!

Use all your communication channels to make sure that all your clients, prospects, staff and business stakeholders know you are exhibiting. You can use the event as a promotional tool afterward too. Do a write up on your website and use all your communication channels to promote your article.

6. At the show.

Make sure you choose the right people to man your stand – look outside of your marketing department and around your organisation for ‘show stars’.

Select one staff member to act as the staffing manager for the event. It’s this person’s responsibility to manage the staffing ratio and to make sure staff adhere to their briefs and are attempting to hit their targets.

Make sure all stand staff are well briefed and trained prior to the event. Stand staff should be clear about the event objectives, why are you exhibiting at a trade show and be set clear targets aligned to these objectives. Have daily briefing sessions at the beginning of each day and a short debrief at the end of the day.

Make sure all staff are fresh and well presented each day – trade shows and exhibitions are tiring, so staff must use their down time to rest and rejuvenate.

Reward staff who meet their daily targets and consider having ‘star prize’ for the person who performs the best overall.

7. Data collecting.

Make sure that you have a robust system for collecting data. An incentive such as a prize draw always works well, but try and qualify your leads prior to entry to make sure they fit within your target audience. You could have a business card drop if it’s a B2B event, or prize cards to fill in.

Some events will offer a data collection device that will let you scan delegate’ badges. It’s a quick and an easy way to collect data, but also a little impersonal.

8. Follow up.

Your leads are like diamonds so make sure that you follow them up as soon as possible after you’re done with exhibiting at a trade show. It’s always a good idea to have a communication (usually an email) ready to send beforehand so you can contact your new prospects while the event is still fresh in their mind. Remember, many of your fellow exhibitors will be contacting these people too, so being quick of the mark will defiantly act in your favour.