Trade shows are one of those particular things that are hard for companies to get right. You know you’ve got to do them, but most companies are content to recycle their same old booth, design, and format everywhere they go, and every time they go. You know the drill, you walk past a booth and there’s a somewhat nervous or expectant looking booth attendee who starts pitching you, carney-style, does a little demonstration, asks a few questions. Maybe you get a few “ohhhhs!” and “ahhhhs!” out of it, one or two people buy something, and on it goes.

There’s a better way. For your next trade show appearance, be prepared to up your game. Here’s how you do it:

Targeted Marketing

Don’t just rely on whatever attendees happen to be there on the big day. Plan in advance. Get your own crew of rabid fans on site and ready to support you. Contact them via IM, email, Twitter, or FaceBook. These are active people in your social networks. People who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing. Reach out to them, either in small groups or personally. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Ask Open Ended Questions

Never ask “Does anyone have any questions?” Instead, use something like “What questions can I answer?” The first question, if it gets answered at all, will net you either a “yes” or a “no.” The second question invites a more detailed, thoughtful response and starts a genuine dialogue. That, in turn, will get other people involved in the Q&A session, and once that happens, the conversation takes on a life of its own.

Top Staff Only

The trade show booth is not the right venue for new hire training. Every employee out there needs to be the best of the best, and well versed in every aspect of whatever it is you’re selling. They need to be able to recite all the facts and figures and statistics relevant to your product, as well as produce, on demand, the most esoteric bits of trivia surrounding your product. Anything less and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Host A Game

This won’t work for every company, because you’ve got to have a product or service that lends itself well to an impromptu game, but if you have something like that, this can be used to dazzling effect. And of course, if you’re hosting a game, you need prizes in at least two tiers. A good, “grand prize” for the big winner of each round of your game, and a number of consolation prizes for participation. These will filter out over the trade show floor and wind up bringing more traffic back to your booth. Good investment.

Instagram & Other Social Media (In Real Time)

This is all about show and tell. You want to have someone dedicated to keeping your social media channels humming throughout the day. Posting Instagrams with trade show attendees, updates on how things are going, pictures and videos of the games, and so forth. Here, you’re not only advertising your own success at the current trade show, but you’re setting the stage for your next one!

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