Although it is important to be realistic about number of events at which you can exhibit, I would encourage you to consider your resources carefully.  If there is an event that fits every criteria except one, don’t give up until you have looked for creative ways to remedy this issue.

What does “appropriate” mean for your company?

In order to select events that would be appropriate for your company to participate in as an exhibitor, we will first have to determine what “appropriate” means to you and your company.  Because you are reading this article, I would guess that you have already identified your target audience, reasons for exhibiting, and generally what you hope/expect to obtain through your exhibiting efforts.  After you have completed this process, you will have also determined your specific goals, and then found, researched, and selected the events which will best help you accomplish those goals.  Let’s get started!

Step 1: Set Goals
In this first step, you will be taking your general thoughts about exhibiting and transitioning them to become concrete focal points upon which you can base your final decisions.  The goals I recommend you set are a “needs” goal and a “wants” goal (you can read more about these goals, why I recommend them, and how to set them on How To: Trade Show, www.howtotradeshow.com).  Please pay special attention during this step because if you identify your goals properly now, it will be possible to easily select the best events for your company later.  As you can imagine, if you don’t set smart goals now, it will be extremely difficult to determine which events will be beneficial to your company later.

Step 2: Seek out Options
Now that you have identified the types of events which would be appropriate for your company, you will need to seek out the actual events that fit your needs.  I recommend a three tiered approach to accumulate a solid list of relevant events:

1 – Contact the professional organizations you belong to and the publications you receive and/or advertise in.  Oftentimes, these groups will host events that fit your interests/needs.
2 – Contact the professional organizations your clients belong to and the publications they receive.  Because these groups are a fit for your clients, it is likely that their events will attract qualified prospects that also fit your target audience.
3 – Search for additional events of interest on The Trade Show Calendar website (www.thetradeshowcalendar.com).  This is a free resource, listing a wide range of trade shows held all over the world.  The database they provide can be searched by industry, dates, location, size, etc.  Here, you can identify other events which may help you to achieve your goals.  Because there is a great deal of information available, use this to your advantage and add any events that spark your interest to the list.

By obtaining a full and organized list of options, you enable yourself to be highly selective with your final events (so that you don’t accidentally eliminate any events that may fit, don’t worry about qualifying for now – we will come back to this in another step).

Step 3: Research Available Events
In this step, we begin to sort through the events you identified in “Step 2” (above).  Looking back at your original goals, find and record the essential information about each event that will help you to make your decisions.  To obtain this information, study the statistics published on the show website, call the show management to ask questions (they will have a sales team in place whose goal it is to sell booth space to suitable companies, so they are happy to provide any information that will help you in your decision making process), and talk with previous exhibitors to hear their opinions as well.

If you begin this process far enough in advance, I would strongly recommend attending the events you are most interested in first to walk the show floor and form your own opinions.  This first hand experience will not only help you in the decision making process, but will also help with the event preparations if you choose to exhibit in the future.

Step 4: Narrow your Choices
Now that you have had an opportunity to paint a full picture for each event, you are equipped to make decisions about their fit and likelihood to help you accomplish your goals.  Look through your list and remove any events that are not as well suited for your company as you had initially anticipated.  Then, after immediate exclusions are made, you can start to narrow your list further according to your availability, budget, and interest in the events that remain.

Although it is important to be realistic about number of events at which you can exhibit, I would encourage you to consider your resources carefully in this stage.  If there is an event that fits every criteria except one (for example, perhaps you have identified an excellent event that you are confident would help you to reach your goals, but you are personally unavailable to remain in your booth for the duration), don’t give up until you have looked for creative ways to remedy this issue (for example, you could hire a professional to assist and/or split responsibilities with another representative from your company).  For most companies, it makes better business sense to choose quality over quantity where exhibiting is concerned.

Our focus throughout this process should be on ensuring that you don’t miss any higher quality events due to relatively minor issues or because lower quality events were improperly qualified.  This is why it is so important to start with setting smart goals then seek out a solid list of options, research them fully, and, finally, narrow your choices according to your specific situation.  Utilizing these four steps, you should have no trouble selecting the most appropriate events for your company to participate in as an exhibitor.

About the author

Robyn Davis

Robyn Davis was raised by self-employed parents, learning the ins and outs of business…

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