Creating Your Conference Strategy

Exhibiting at conferences and expos can be a great way to introduce your product or service to your market, as well as make great contacts. But before you shell out the tens of thousands of dollars that an exhibit booth can cost, develop your strategy for why you’re going and what you want to achieve.

"Exhibit Hall"

Why You’re Going

You’d be surprised (or not) how many businesses exhibit at a show without any real objective. They’re there because they think they should be. And then they wonder why they wasted so much money. It’s important to determine why you’re there. Is it:

  • To get feedback on a product or service?
  • To introduce your brand/product/service to the market?
  • To make potential partner contacts?
  • To make new sales?
  • To establish yourself in a new market?
  • To learn?

These are all valid reasons for exhibiting, and certainly, you can have more than one of these answers as your reason. Now that you have that , decide what you want to achieve.

Your Goals

It can be difficult to validate exhibiting next year if you have no metrics to measure for this year’s efforts. Work to develop specific numbers in your goals, such as:

  • Make 15 potential vendor contacts
  • Get contact info for 300 potential customers for newsletter database
  • Give away 10,000 product samples

Even with these, you should understand what you expect the result to be. If you want more contacts for your newsletter, the idea is that some of them will eventually become customers. Don’t grab business cards willy-nilly; focus on people who are genuinely interested in your brand.

After the conference, look to see how you measure up against these results, and use this information to determine whether it would be beneficial to exhibit in the future. It can be difficult for some businesses to directly correlate trade show conversations to sales, so these metrics may be your only aid in measuring ROI.

Tips

  • Make your booth engaging and appealing to get people to stop.
  • Hold contests for big products, like an iPad or assortment of your products.
  • Give away samples or full size products.
  • Collect business cards or attendee details.
  • Give your card to people you talk to.
  • Attend sessions to bone up on your industry.

Photo: Flickr user UOregon Conference Services. Creative Commons 2.0.