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Getting the most out of the trade shows and exhibitions you attend means making some big commitments in terms of the time and money you spend getting ready. With all the effort you’re putting in, it’s important to maximise your success with careful planning and preparation. Here are ten easy-to-implement tips for getting the most out of the events you attend.

1) Choose the Right Event

Exhibition success can make a big difference to your business’s profitability, but it’s important to choose your events carefully. Don’t just choose the biggest events and hope for the best; being the biggest doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right for your business, and it’s easy for smaller businesses to get lost in the crowd at the larger shows. Instead, research your target audience carefully and find out what events they attend.

2) Register ASAP

Registering for industry events well in advance gives you a lot of advantages that you can’t get any other way. Depending on the show you attend you may be able to get a discount on the registration fee, for example. More importantly, the earlier you register the better your chances are of getting a good spot on the floor.

3) Join in the Conversation on Social Media

Once you’ve registered it’s important to let existing contacts and customers know that you’re going to be there. Direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other electronic methods are perfect for this, but don’t stop there. You can generate some extra exposure without any great expenditure of time or money, and add some impact to your event marketing by getting involved in the social media buzz.

Twitter is particularly useful for sharing information about your attendance, and your stand and exhibit. Use whatever event hashtag has been created and tweet regularly in the weeks leading up to the event to increase your business exposure.

4) Make Your Stand a Priority

This should be a given, but it’s surprising how many people leave this to the last minute and hope they can find a company with as little as a couple of weeks to spare. Don’t leave this important matter to chance: if you need a new stand for your show, find a supplier at least three or four months in advance.

On the other hand, if you already have a stand make it a priority to check it thoroughly to see if any of it needs updating. Do you need new graphics, new data, or some extra components to meet your current exhibition needs?

Don’t forget that making a good first impression is really crucial at these events. In a crowded room where there are dozens—or hundreds—of other stands competing for attention, it’s important to have a stand that commands a second look.

5) Help Your Staff Get Prepared

The people who staff your exhibition stand need some particular skills: they should be friendly and approachable, and be able to stay that way for the duration of the event. They should be thoroughly familiar with the business and what it’s offering in order to provide potential customers with information. But more than that, they should be prepared not just to hand out information, but to engage people and find out what they really need, and to then highlight ways in which the business can meet those needs.

6) Create a Follow-up Plan

Some people don’t think about this until after the event is over, but in fact it’s important to have your follow-up plan in place before you attend. Your follow-up plan is your blueprint for staying in contact with leads after the show, so it’s important to prepare this plan in a way that reflects your objectives.

For example, an effective plan includes different ways of following up on different kinds of contacts. Categorising leads based on whether they’re sales-ready or just thinking about it is a good way to go. And be sure to take notes on those prospects who are interested in specific prospects or services, so you can come back to them with more details. Aim to contact all leads within two days of the end of the event, and plan scripts that you can follow for each category of contacts.

7) Start Thinking about the Next Event

After the event is over, it’s important that you don’t lose momentum—so keep it going by continuing to attend relevant shows and exhibitions. This allows you to strengthen your business relationships, generate new leads, and continue building your business’s industry cred.