Tuesday, June 09, 2009

12 Tips for a Successful Business Expo

I’ve been to my share of job fairs, trade shows and vendor expos and figured it was time to have my own booth! Last Thursday, June 4th I represented my writing and editing business (“Write from the Inside Out”) at the Women Helping Women Business Expo held at the Wake County Shrine Club. This event was entirely volunteer-run by my women’s networking organization Coffee and Contacts and it was the largest event that Coffee and Contacts had ever organized in the two years that C&C has been in existence.

In the months leading up to the Expo I attended a few vendor fairs/business expos and asked the vendors questions about what makes a booth successful.

Here are a few tips I learned:

Stay at your booth because if you don’t you might miss a perspective customer/client. I know there’ll be times when you do have to leave, but make it as quick as possible! Or you can have a helper (see next).

Have a helper. Having someone help you carry your booth stuff (which may take you 2-3 trips from your car to your spot on the expo floor) and be there when you need to leave for a short break makes all of the different. Next time, I’ll definitely have a helper who knows about what I do and can promote me well if I’m not on hand.

Don’t dump all of your promotional items on the table, just have a few out. I bought “Write from the Inside Out” pens and letter openers from Jonas and Simone Sobral of Victory Trophies and Gifts in Wake Forest. Simone told me to have just a few of my products out so that visitors won’t “grab-bag” my stuff in quantities of 20 or more. Also, having a few things out will make the display less cluttered and more appealing.

Display your wares using different heights by using boxes (such as carry-on file boxes) that you cover with colored fabric (pick some up at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics). In order to give your display height and drama, consider taking boxes from around the house and draping them with bright fabrics. I didn’t have draped boxes this time at the Expo, but if I did, I would have displayed my laptop on top of a box. It’s also a good idea to have a tri-panel to give height and contrast to your table.

Have a fish bowl with registration slips for an “Enter to Win” contest. Everyone loves a contest and with the fish bowl you can collect names for your newsletter or upcoming workshops. I gave away consulting, but a basket of soaps, candles and/or cosmetics would have been more attractive, but that’s not my business.

Display a colorful banner. Bring your own tablecloths and drapes along with a bold banner. I used a whiteboard easel as my banner.

Run a video clip. I figured that showing folks via a video clip of what an Open Mic actually looks like would invite questions and would get people more interested in my booth. It worked! My 3:14 minute video of my last Open Mic was a winner with the song “Say” by John Mayer featured prominently in the background. However next time I’ll figure out how to loop the video so that I won’t be standing there with my mouse punching the start button every three minutes.

Bring snacks and water. Simone also told me to bring snacks and water. This is especially important for a daylong expo. Ours was only three hours, but I still glad I had enough water and a tuna fish sandwich for energy.

Bring your camera. Before the Expo I took several shots of my neighboring tables and had a few friends take some of me with my booth, so I could post them later on my blog and on Facebook.

Chocolate! What would a Women’s Expo be without chocolate! I had plenty of dark chocolate on hand as well as homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Have plenty of handouts/flyers. My most popular items on my table were my Summer Workshop flyers and my upcoming Open Mic flyers. Folks love to grab a colored flyer that has handy information.

And above all, wear comfortable shoes! Since the Expo was only three hours, I figured I could make it in my high heels. I did, since they’re quite broken in, but for a longer expo, I’d definitely wear my clunky, squared-heeled shoes or boots.

I’d also advise aspiring booth vendors to set aside enough time to prepare all of your displays and wares. I kid you not; it took me two working days and nights to pull everything together. I didn’t do anything else for two days except Expo stuff, which included printing, cutting, shopping, stenciling, gluing, and sorting. I’d also advise that you give yourself plenty of time to set everything up so you don’t feel rushed like I did.

And all of this prep work is well worth it when you have folks comment on how nice your booth looks or stop by and linger to learn more about what you do.

1 comment:

Elisa said...

Great tips! I've attended different kinds of expos, and everything you described were examples of those memorable booths/tables.