You should promote your planned appearance, including your booth location and any presentations you’ll be giving, to your existing customers and prospects, as well as to other who will be attending that you’d like to meet. Do this through your social media, newsletters, sites, blog posts, advertising, direct mail, and all other vehicles you use to communicate to prospects and customers.

This is especially helpful for early-stage companies since it creates the impression that you are a real player in the industry, large enough and important enough to participate in the show. It will also help your sales and business development people line up meetings. For large, annual trade shows, there will be a lot of competition for the time of key people you’d like to meet, so the sooner you can set up those appointments, the better. This includes both meetings during the day as well as evening events. And if you plan an event, such as a party or reception, plan around the major events that are big draws. If you’ve not gone to the show before, ask others in your industry about the big events that “everyone” will be going to, and ask your partners what events they’re planning so you don’t arrange competing events or dinner meetings.

Make sure that people can get ahold of you at the show, especially if you make a big announcement or are part of an announcement made by a larger company in the industry.

  • Include your mobile number in your e-mail signatures.
  • Include your mobile number in the information on your site that states that you’re going to be at the trade show.
  • Make sure that whomever is staffing your booth while you’re away knows how to get ahold of you, including giving them instructions on how to handle people who stop by and ask for you by name, or who just make inquiries.
  • Leave business cards—make sure they included your mobile number—with your booth staff, and don’t let anyone get your card without the staff also getting the other person’s card.
  • Block one or two periods during the day when you’re going to be at your booth. This might be 30 minutes toward the end of every day. This way your staff can tell people who may not want to leave their name. Try not to let that happen, but if it does, they’ll be prepared.

Here’s what you’re trying to avoid: You and your key sales, business development, and partner relations staff all go to the show. (In an early-stage company, this might be you or you and a few other people.) If you’ve done a good job of setting up appointments in advance, you’re not in the booth or at your stand much. So how does someone who hears about you during the show get ahold of you? And while you may be at the show for the duration, an executive you really want to meet with may be there for only a day.

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