Five Questions to Answer before you Go to a Trade Show

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planning your trade show display

Now that summer’s officially over, many of us are buckling down and getting back to business in a serious way. If one of your fall marketing strategies involves trade shows, you’ll find some helpful hints in this guest post by Karen Bresnahan.


Nearly every type of business uses trade shows to showcase their brand, demonstrate products, and gain valuable networking contacts and prospective clients. Creating an attractive and effective display is a vital part of making trade show attendance worthwhile.

Trade shows are highly effective ways of building your business. In a study conducted by the Center of Exhibition Industry Research, 86 percent of trade show attendees had primary influence in buying decisions for a company.

It’s a good idea to sit down and identify your objectives before going to a trade show, whether you are planning to generate sales leads, testing a product, conducting a demo, finding new applications, gaining customer feedback or studying the competition. Knowing what you want to achieve before you go will reduce the amount of stress you have to go through to prepare for it.

Before you create your trade show display, you should study the following 5 basic questions, and make sure that your display answers those questions easily and clearly for the type of audience that you are marketing to.

1 – What is your company all about?

Anyone should be able to glance at your display and understand what your company does in a couple of minutes. The more quickly they can figure this out, the more likely they will be to spend time with you (if your company meets their needs). Showcase what you do, and why you are good at it.

2 – Who is your audience?

You should know clearly the type of audience you are aiming to market to. Who are they? What is their lifestyle, their interests, and their problems that you can address? This is the key to understanding the kind of visuals you should use that will appeal to them.

3 – What services do you provide?

Know exactly what it is that your company does and be able to explain it in a simple way that anyone can understand. Make sure the representative at your booth is well-versed in all the services that you provide, and is able to explain them to anyone with ease. Experience counts; don’t leave your booth to be manned by someone who is not seasoned and doesn’t have all the answers. Know the questions that people are most likely to ask and prepare the answers ahead of time.

4 – Why are you unique?

Try to analyze what advantages your company has over your competitors. Ask yourself why you are unique – why should someone choose you over another company? What is it that you do best, and what have you done in the past that has made you successful? What kind of feedback do you get from your customers and why would they recommend you? If you know why you are unique, you will be ready to explain it to each prospective customer.

5 – How can they connect with you?

If a customer is interested, they will most likely have questions for you and stay to discuss some of their ideas. Here is where you can shine in the customer service department. It is estimated that customer service is 50 percent of business success, and 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how a customer feels they are being treated.

Be well informed, courteous and easy to talk to, so people will enjoy visiting with you. Customers buy from people they like and those that they feel comfortable talking to. The better you are at just making conversation with people, the more they will respond to your company’s image. A company’s image is built by the people who work there. Let visitors know exactly what they need to know to be able to get started with you.

Using Visuals to convey your message

As you work on ideas for creating your trade show display, choose images that are appealing and easy to comprehend for your visuals. Select only the best images you have and get them printed in large posters or murals. There are many different kinds of materials you can use to make your display look best. It is generally a good idea to consult with a professional printing firm to get a clear idea of what your options are.

There are numerous creative ways to present your business. You could use a simple table top display combining photos and copy, use a banner sign near your booth, or even utilize full sized stand up figurines. You could also use banner stands of various sizes, or have a large backdrop banner made. If you have a display wall, you can add several velcro-on graphics to it. Another option is to have pop-up booth panels made, or have a complete pop-up booth constructed.

The power of large images

The use of larger images has more impact for communicating information because they stand out and are seen more easily than smaller images. A large percent of our brains are dedicated to visual images and we comprehend and respond to images faster than to written words. Ninety-three percent of all communication happens in a nonverbal way, so big clear images can have a big impact. Studies have found that images are processed in the brain simultaneously, while text takes much longer to comprehend.

When someone walks by and views your mural or banner for only a few seconds, they should be able to understand and answer most of the five questions above. Plus, they should be motivated to stop and talk to you.

Whatever you decide to do for your trade show display, remember that the personal representative standing at the display is every bit as important as the display you are showcasing.  Make it personal and people will respond to what they see.

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Karen Bresnahan is a freelance journalist, photographer and artist from Boise, Idaho. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Idaho and is published as a writer/photographer for numerous websites and for the Valley News in Meridian, ID, and the Owyhee Avalanche in Homedale, ID.

Karen is a small business owner and is currently working on developing a web portfolio of her creative work, which includes Romantic Idaho Weddings, KBLifelines positive quotes, and Idaho Naturals Desertscapes artwork. Her goal is to motivate, educate and inspire others through her writing and photography. You can connect with her through email at or on twitter @idaho1111

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  1. Avatar Rachel on August 17, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Remembering who your audience will be is key when it comes to trade shows. While your main goal should be to encourage visitors, you should also be thinking about what will bring in industry specific visitors and potential customers. Thanks for sharing the tips.

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