Trade show attendance rebounds: Prepare for increased competition

The Center for Exhibition Research recently announced that after three consecutive years of decline, trade shows saw a higher than projected rebound of 2.7% in 2011. While the exciting news has everyone rejoicing, the turnaround can also present a challenge for exhibitors.

In a down economy, competition decreases and it is easier to grab attention with a well-constructed display. But with continued growth projected for 2012, exhibitors have little to no room for error … making it more important than ever to have a comprehensive “gang box”—your go-to kit for the unexpected.

Here are a few suggestions for adding value to your all-encompassing kit, so you’re not left in the lurch or scrambling to find a power strip the last minute:

The right tools
Nearly every trade show veteran can share a horror story about one thing or another falling. Bring a variety of adhesives and fasteners. You may not use the Velcro®, cable ties, glue stick, or artists’ spray mount every time, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to come in handy at some point.

With space in the booth an ever-present issue, it is wise to pack a variety of multi-purpose tools, such as a Phillips/flathead screwdriver or a ruler/level for mounting graphic displays. Alternatively, include a compact, pre-assembled tool kit in the gang box so a quick visual inventory can be conducted between shows. Have these and your other gang box components imprinted to ensure they are less likely to “walk away” accidentally on the trade show floor.

The lay of the land
Some people have an intrinsic sense of direction while others rely heavily on GPS; either way, it’s crucial to be knowledgeable on the immediate area surrounding the convention center and the host city. Send the sales team information pertaining to the nearest FedEx Office® or Home Depot® for emergencies, and bars or restaurants for impromptu happy hours.

The technology curse
When travelling, it’s especially easy to leave things behind. To ensure that all equipment will work properly, keep spare chargers, HDMI cables and adapters on hand. Don’t forget surge protectors and extension cords. Don’t negate working technology coupled with corrupt presentations: Bring an additional copy of sales presentations on USB drives for yourself and to hand out as promotional items.

Taking care of the sales team
Running around at the last minute can leave staff with a not-so-presentable feeling, so it’s important to provide the right items for staff to refresh themselves. Supply the team with combs, breath mints, deodorant or even shoe inserts to cushion their tired feet. These back-ups are especially helpful if the airline loses luggage and the breath mints can be used as giveaways—killing two birds with one stone!

It is just as important to care for the well-being of the sales team. Standing, smiling and networking all day can take its toll on the overall psyche of even the best employees. Keep a cache of ibuprofen and acetaminophen readily available in a compact first aid kit.

Draw notice from the positive aspects of your display, not from being ill-equipped for Murphy’s Law. A fully loaded gang box will reduce unneeded stresses and restore focus to the reason for coming to the show: gaining new business.

“Final 2011 CEIR index results released” Exhibit City News. 27 March 2012. 29 March 2012.

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