If you’re launching your company at a trade show or doing a large product launch that you want to celebrate as a company, it may make sense to send several people, especially at early-stage ventures where this can help create an even stronger sense of “company.” Those who attend can also meet customers and potential customers and help them understand the industry. They’ll also see the large established companies you’re up against. All of this is motivation for the hard work ahead.

Everyone who goes should have a job with specific responsibilities. If you’re serious about achieving your goals and spending money wisely, “trade show” should not equal “party in Vegas!” From team meetings and industry breakfasts in the morning to business dinners and industry receptions and parties at night, your team should be focused on helping your business succeed.

In short, trade shows are hard work for everyone, not just the people who staff the booth. Setting those expectations correctly will help weed out who shouldn’t go and will communicate to those who are left behind that their co-workers will be putting in even more hours than when they’re in the office.

Determining specifically who should go should be based on your objectives and plan for the show. Especially in an early-stage company, you want to have all of the key people there in order to move ahead with partner discussions and advance deals. With the right planning, a trade show may give you a unique opportunity to bring together everyone from your side and everyone from their side.

Don’t end up in a situation where you’re not able to close a deal, or where important details remain to be worked out, because you don’t have the right people there (in person or by phone/Skype). Trade shows also offer rare opportunities to bond. There are typically several people there from each company; you’re in environment that can feel much more relaxed, especially after hours, than typical work days and meetings; and you’re together for a few days. Savvy CEOs and high-performing sales and business development people will make the most of these opportunities.

In terms of staffing your booth or stand, ensure that people can get breaks from the booth and that key people aren’t tied up and are able to respond quickly to opportunities for meetings. This can be especially challenging for early-stage companies that don’t have a lot of staff. You want to avoid a situation where someone important stops by, and you’re only staffed with very junior people who can’t really answer questions. If you and your sales and business development people are fully booked for the trade show, you’re doing your job, but that also means making sure that whomever is in the booth knows how to get ahold of you and that he or she gets the card of the person who stopped by and can can hand your card with your mobile number.

If you don’t have enough staff to cover the booth and can afford it, hire local professional staff to serve as a greeter. This person would handle inquiries and help with traffic flow.

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