September 2005 Vol. 10 Issue 3
The best trade show giveaways are within your reach
Q&A with Steve Cain

It's trade show season again, so I've been hearing many questions and comments on this theme lately:

Question: We are getting ready to exhibit at a local trade show. Many people attend the show and we want to promote our educational programs. Can you give us some tips on how we can compete with the big exhibitors who have expensive giveaways?

Answer: I once read that the most desired giveaway at trade shows is information. While Purdue Extension cannot award new cars or cash prizes, we do have the most important giveaway of all: knowledge.

When people go to a trade show, some are enticed by the thought of prizes, but many go to learn, ask questions, or examine what's available. Here are 10 tips to make your booth stand out to visitors.

  • Match the information you provide as closely as you can to the show's theme. This means knowing the audience and tailoring your message to suit them.

  • Before the show, announce that you have important information to give away. Prepare radio and newspaper public service announcements and invite listeners to visit. Be sure to include your booth number or location.

  • Give show visitors all the energy you can. If possible, don't work at the booth the entire day, every day of the show. Trade show professionals know that two to four hours is the maximum a person can effectively work and smile while greeting hundreds of visitors.

  • Don't sit down. Stand at the edge of your booth and make eye contact with each visitor you can. Say, “Hello.” Invite visitors into the booth area to learn more about your best information. You could ask, “Would you like free information on (your informational theme)?”

  • Assuming you have an existing tabletop display and access to a color printer, be sure to keep your display up to date by using current photos and information. Larger photos — 8.5 inches by 10 inches or 11 inches by 14 inches — enhance displays. Use two to three images per panel. Keep wording to a minimum. You only have seconds to capture the visitor's attention. Use the few words you have to ask a critical question or make a statement that gives them the information they need. Put detailed information in a handout. Use “free” with informational fliers that fit the theme. Don't make excuses that it's only free information. It's more than that. Remember, information is the Number One reason the visitor is at the show.

  • Brand Purdue Extension. Be sure visitors see the name in big bold letters on the display. Make sure they understand that Purdue Extension has information relevant to their needs. For branding tips, see the Purdue Extension Marketing Web site.

  • Have business cards or appropriate contact information so visitors can follow up with you. And don't be shy about collecting names. For people who want more information, have a sign-up sheet for a direct mailer or for your newsletter. More information about newsletters are available on the Purdue Extension Communication Survival Guide and Purdue Extension Marketing Web sites.

Steve Cain,

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