How Do I Prepare for a Trade Show to Ensure Success?


Having just returned from the famous WWDMAGIC trade show in Las Vegas (where I spent a few days looking for emerging designers and innovative resources for a variety of sites that I write and consult for in New York) I'm inspired to write about how you can make your next participation in a tradeshow even more of a success. I've also produced a Tin Shingle original #Intensive podcast, "Everything You MUST Know About Tradeshows: For Veteran and Newbie Attendees". Do listen to it for more in-depth tips after you read this article.

Even as a seasoned pro, I definitely picked up even more new insights and observations that any entrepreneur can implement at their next tradeshow.

Here are some ways you can make your next tradeshow a HIT!

1. Practice your pitches

Just like any media outlet, you need to have to have your pitches ready for a buyer, press or an impromptu opportunity as business deals can happen anywhere.

There are two types of pitches that every entrepreneur should be prepared to deliver:

  • Your brand pitch is what I also like to call your elevator pitch. Be sure you can articulate your story and your reason for being, how long you’ve been in business, your aesthetic and most importantly, your point-of-difference as your unique offering may be something specific a retailer is looking to buy. Hopefully, most of this information is already in your press kit, but be sure to practice and deliver it with confidence in order to impress whomever comes into your booth.
  • Your sales pitch because you have to be ready to take a buyer or editor through your collection quickly. Be able to package up the essence of the collection and share what are your immediates, items in the season ahead and your price points. Know your key pieces or anchors along with deliveries as many buyers have a specific time period they are buying for. At the end of your pitch, don’t be afraid to ask to write an order. Let’s face it, you really don’t want a buyer writing notes!

Tip from my recent trip to MAGIC: One question you should be prepared to answer is something that I heard from buyers was, “who do you want to hang with?” Meaning, what brands are you most similar to and which category you fall in. All of these important pieces help sell-in your line and are ultimately what a buyer wants to know.

2. Do your homework

I’m sure that you have a wish list of stores and media outlets that you’d love to be in. Be sure to research those retailers and try to get the names of the buyers and editors along with knowing everything about their business or publication. It’s you’re way to impress them and also let them know your serious about doing business with their company. Plus, it will make you better prepared to pitch them.

3. Give buyers and editors collateral options

There are many ways to deliver collateral to your guests, especially since everyone has a preference on how they like their materials. You should have hard and electronic copies of lookbooks and linesheets ready to go. Postcards are a great too as they are an affordable takeaway option and not as bulky as a lookbook. Don’t forget to put your booth number on your materials because you’ll never know who will come back.

Tip from MAGIC: I was very impressed with way designers were distributing lookbooks. I saw brands use QR codes in picture frames for people to scan and also had it prepped as a PDF on to an iPad so it was ready to be e-mailed. My favorite was a USB bracelet that featured a designer’s logo and tagline loaded with photos, the linesheet and lookbook.

3. Leverage social media before, during and after the show

I received several leads before MAGIC on Facebook on Twitter. I was more inclined to write down the booth number and even engage with the brand because they intercepted me where I live (which is clearly online). During the show, you can also send out call-to-action feeds. Whether you’re doing a giveaway, have candy in your booth or just letting people know you want to take them through your (add point-of-difference here) collection, real-time messaging works.

Tip from MAGIC: You can also follow-up via social media too. This past week, I’ve sent and received reminders, thank you notes and nice-meeting-you messages through Twitter alone and had much success with my leads.

4. Let your visuals speak to your audience

Figuring out who will be coming into your booth is an art. You can try to read badges or intercept that person walking extremely slow past your booth, but that doesn’t always work. To make it easier, make sure your booth is visually appealing and don’t forget to feature your products as the hero! Using mannequins, strategic merchandising on racks or even investing in a great display makes all the difference. Be sure to wear your product too along with everyone in your booth!  Bringing tear sheets of your press is a must. Whether it’s laminated or framed, it needs to be in your booth as you want people to know that your brand has been in the media. Buyers want to know that you have traction in the marketplace and press it a great way to show it.

Tip from MAGIC:
Several designers created posters near the entrance of the booth that summarized their collection along with any awards or affiliations. For me, it was a quick read and helped me decide if I should stop in or not.

5. Follow-ups & next steps

Following-up is key to securing your sale and engaging your leads. Hopefully you’ve taken notes, organized your business cards (plastic holders in a binder are great at a show) and are ready to send out emails and make calls. Follow-ups should be concise and have a purpose so make sure you ask for what you need or give what you’ve promised and always be sure to provide context or recap a conversation to keep your discussions moving.

All these tips are easy to do and require a bit of focus and prep. The good thing is that once you put it all together, you will be on your way to a great show and hopefully, a successful season ahead.

If you're ready to dive in even more, I've got more tips for you on this tradeshow podcast.

Until the next trade show, connect with me on Twitter!