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5 Steps to Maximize Your Event's Success

As a start-up or small business with limited resources, you need to get the most value from every marketing dollar that you spend. Even in the era of digital communications, webinars, and virtual tradeshows, there are many reasons why you still need to meet with people face-to-face. Live tradeshows and conferences are often a cost-effective mechanism to accomplish these personal interactions. Butit is expensive to purchase exhibit space, ship an exhibit booth, and haul supporting products, much less get yourself and a colleague there and back as well.

Still, if you've decided to bite the bullet and create a marketing presence at a live event, there are some simple and inexpensive ways to increase your visibility and maximize your exposure and success at the event.

1. Read the Fine Print

When you commit to exhibiting at an event, be sure to read the contract and understand what free marketing opportunities are available to exhibitors. For most events, you'll need to submit a company description for their print and/or online exhibitor guide. This is how people will find you and many times this most basic communication is overlooked. If you can't be bothered with the event details, hire an independent contractor to take care of it for you. They can save you hundreds of dollars in late shipping fees and suggest ways to minimize costs and maximize your exposure.

2. Plan in Advance

If there is an educational program combined with the exhibition, see what opportunities exist for exhibitors to contribute–some shows offer forums for exhibitors to demonstrate their new products to a live audience, or present a seminar, "Lunch and Learn," or some other educational session–and typically, the opportunity is free. You've committed to exhibit at the meeting, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to get in front of more people? But, in most cases, you need to sign up for these activities months in advance, so you need to stay in touch with the exhibitor guidelines and deadlines.

3. Look for Sponsorships

Often exhibitors have the opportunity to sponsor coffee breaks, lunches, or some other event. See what opportunities exist and the cost. Some are relatively inexpensive opportunities to get your name out in front of more people and an opportunity to meet more people.

4. Leverage the Trade Media and Bloggers

Most live events are attended by the trade media. You'll want to get your company name and products and services in front of the media in hopes they will write about you in their coverage of the event. Check to see if there is a media center in the exposition hall–this is where you can present a media kit of your products and services. Avoid printing–put your information on a CD or thumb drive and leave it in the press room. Editors and writers are more apt to hold onto a compact CD or device rather than lugging papers and folders home with them. Many event organizations will make available an e-mail list of the trade press registered for the event. In that case, obtain the list and send an e-mail of introduction to the media and invite them to your booth for a demo of your products or discussion of your services. Also, do some research before the event and see if any bloggers are writing about the event. You can also engage them in discussion via social media vehicles and alert them that you will also be attending and would like the opportunity to meet them in person.

5. Tell Your Customers and Prospects

Finally, be sure to send an e-mail announcement to your customers and prospects that you are attending the event and invite them for a demonstration. Even if they are not attending, it's another opportunity to tell them about your product and service and request information. Create a landing page for the event on your website to serve as a virtual tradeshow booth for those people not attending. For a few extra dollars, you can also typically rent an e-mail list of preregistrants to the meeting and send them a similar e-mail announcement.

You've made the financial commitment to exhibit, now you need to be sure people know you will be there and maximize opportunities for meeting visitors in your booth.

Tom Ricci is the owner of Ricci Communications.

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