Trade Show 101: What to Say, What to Wear & What Promo Products to Give Away

tradeshow neon sign

Ah, trade show season! For many small businesses, it’s a time of mixed emotions: excitement over the possibilities, like meeting new customers and increasing your company’s exposure. But there are the stressful parts as well: what to say, what to wear, and what promotional product giveaways to bring.

What to Say – Keep it Open

Attending a trade show can be physically and mentally exhausting. You’re on your feet for a good chunk of the day. And you’re “on” for that whole time as well, meaning you need to represent your company, engage booth visitors, and sound as fresh, articulate, and excited with visitor #1 as you are with visitor #1001.

Here’s the #1 tip when it comes to engaging people:

Ask open-ended questions. You want to get people talking (and talking about something relevant to your business). Don’t ask them things like “Are you enjoying the trade show?” or “Do you think it’s hot in here?” Sure, you’ll get a response, but it will likely be a one-word answer. Instead, ask open-ended questions.

For example, if you’re a home builder specializing in universal design and you’re attending a trade show or expo that attracts homeowners, you might ask a booth visitor something like, “What’s the most challenging area to access in your house?” The person’s answer will foster a conversation where you can ease into a discussion around universal design.

Tips to Better Conversations at Trade Shows:

  • Rejuvenate your body. It’s okay to take a break! You need to stay hydrated, you need food, and you need to walk around and clear your head. Don’t worry about “missed opportunities” if you have to leave your booth for fifteen minutes. You won’t be helpful to people who stop by your booth if your stomach is growling or you need to use the rest room. Just make sure to post a sign with the time you’ll be back and include your contact info.
  • Relax your mind. No one knows your business better than you do. People aren’t there to try to stump you with questions. If they do ask a tough question that requires you to get back to them, well voila – now you have the perfect excuse for engaging the prospects AFTER the trade show.

What to Wear – You are a Walking Billboard for Your Brand

More about your booth below, but what about your apparel? Make sure you wear apparel that has your logo prominently displayed. (And ditto for anyone manning your booth.)

Polo shirts look great, travel well, and you can continue wearing them outside of the show. They’re easy to customize as well.

What to Bring for Giveaways

As you’re engaging with people, you want to make sure you have branded promotional products available that they can take and walk away with. People love free stuff so why not give away promotional products that people will actually use. Whenever they use your promo product, they’ll see your logo and will be reminded of the conversation they had with you.

Here are some tried and true promotional giveaways for trade shows:

  • Anti-microbial Gel Stress Balls. Who doesn’t love kneading these puppies when they’re on the phone, watching TV, or sitting in on a trade show session? The anti-microbial feature protects the balls from odors and stains.
  • Promotional Pens. Sometimes the simplest promo item works best. Don’t underestimate the power of the pen! They’re easily tucked into briefcases, bags, and purses…and they have the ability to “walk” when people “borrow” them.
  • Double-wall Acrylic Tumblers. These are a smart, eco-friendly choice because they’re reusable, which is a hot topic for many people. People love using them as well.
  • Litewell Key Chain. This is a tried-and-true favorite. Key chains are popular booth items since they’re eye-catching, functional with the cool LED flashlight, and they travel well – people often pop them onto their key rings right then and there.

What tips do you have for fellow business owners who’ll be attending trade shows?

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