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Exhibiting at trade shows

Trade shows can be a great way of showcasing your products and services, building your brand and connecting with new customers. If you make an impression, you’ll develop leads, make sales and could even pick up your next big contract.

Success is likely to develop with regular year-on-year attendance at the same shows. Other businesses in the industry (including potential customers) may read regular attendance as an indicator of your credibility, stability and long-term intention. It may take several years of attendance at the same show before these businesses start to develop stronger interest in your company.

Getting value for money

Taking part in overseas shows and exhibitions can be expensive. Target those with attendees who could potentially become customers. Joining other complementary exporters is a cost-effective way for smaller exporters to exhibit at trade events.

It is important to take care negotiating all the official requirements for attending a trade show. Skilful planning and execution, before, during and after the trade show, is essential to get results.

Preparing for a trade show

To get the most out of your investment, you will need to have spent plenty of time preparing for the event. Showing up on the day unprepared is a wasted opportunity and could even damage your business if you appear unprofessional.

Here are the main things you’ll need to do to prepare.

  • Set objectives. Understand what you want to achieve. Do you want to increase market share or introduce new products or services? Then set specific and realistic objectives. If you are new to exporting, your initial objective may be to create leads for future follow-up.
  • Conduct market research. Research the host country’s culture, economy and business environment to avoid mistakes, delays or communication issues. Ask event organisers for a list of attendees and determine potential competitors. Often this data is available from the event’s website.
  • Budget. Estimate figures for exhibition and stand costs, marketing, accommodation and meals, and travel and insurance from the last trade show you attended. Is the exercise commercially viable?
  • Plan your stand. Make your exhibit stand out from the others. Create an eye-catching, open and welcoming stand with a focal point and strong key message.

Some points to consider when planning your stand include:

  • It can be cost efficient to book space only and use a modular stand design. These stands are easy to transport, put up and take down and are versatile. Declare any stands you take to Customs on the way out, so you don’t get charged duty on arrival back in New Zealand.
  • Know the stand specifications: size, flooring, lighting, traffic flow of show visitors and furniture requirements.
  • Identify the materials needed for design and construction, and potential suppliers.
  • Promotion. Pre-exhibition promotion and publicity is crucial to generate interest and differentiate your company and products.
  • Plan early. Deadlines for pre-event promotional materials can be two months before the event. Ensure you have enough brochures and business cards
  • Book meetings. Identify companies important to you that are likely to be at the show and introduce your company to them well in advance. Try to get them to commit to a time to meet. Send other interesting companies an invitation and incentive to visit your stand.
  • Exhibition briefing. Thoroughly brief all staff on the stand about what they are required to sell and communicate. They also need to know the differentiators and advantages of your product or service, and how to communicate them.
  • Cultural considerations. Do not underestimate their importance. Colours and symbols have both good and bad connotations in different countries and should be used appropriately.

During the event

  • Arrival. Ensure staff arrive in plenty of time to recover from jet lag, set up the stand, adjust plans and address last minute issues.
  • Day-to-day activities. Walk the show, observe competitors and possible partners, take photos and meet with prospects.
  • Visitors. Learn to recognise different types of visitors and limit the time spent with prospects. If they are just information gathering, save the selling for after the event.

After the event

  • Follow up leads. Try and follow up any leads you make as quickly as possible.
  • Analysis. Prepare a final report measuring achievements against objectives, effectiveness and performance, costs and sales, and recommendations on future attendance.
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