Exhibiting at Conferences and Trade Shows – Keys to Success Part 2

By: Sharon Berman,

Published: The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators

In the last article, we discussed how law firms can capitalize on the opportunities afforded by exhibiting at conferences and trade shows and how to identify promising venues. This article will help you analyze opportunities and give you ideas about creating an attractive display that pulls visitors to your booth and makes your firm memorable.

It’s All in the Details

Let’s say you/your attorneys have talked with clients and others who know your target markets.  You’ve developed a list of possible exhibiting venues, which attract the type of client you want, and you have material about each sitting in front of you.  You can com­pare different venues on your list by taking a close look at what your exhibit fee buys you.  There are a myriad of details associated with exhibiting, both in terms of the physical space, as well as the promotional opportuni­ties.

The items included as part of your actual booth package can vary.  Don’t assume anything.  Sometimes, your fee simply buys you the exhibit space and a table.  If there is a table, what size are you entitled to, and does it include a tablecloth? How many chairs are provided? Is an electrical outlet available and included, or does it cost extra? Will your space have carpeting or is that in addition to the booth rental?  How many people are you allowed to have staff your booth?

Regarding promotional aspects, you want to ask about things such as how much visibility do you get in terms of being listed in the program, in the material that’s distrib­uted to attendees, etc.  Are you provided with con­ference passes, either for firm mem­bers or to give to clients, and if so, how many?

Your booth location will impact your results as well as your budget.  Of course, those in the front of a hall or along the main aisles usually cost more than other spaces.  Those who exhibited last year often get first pick of location for the following year.  Depending on how close you are to the conference date, your choices may be limited; however, you can still be very successful even if your loca­tion is not ideal.

Another aspect to consider is whether or not the venue is a “union shop.”  Many large convention centers require that union em­ployees do a lot of the labor required to bring in your materials, and have them delivered to the dock after the show.  For example, you may be allowed to carry in only one load that you can hold in your arms, but anything above and beyond that must be transported by union members, and the fee for this ex­tends beyond the exhibit rental.  You want to be aware of extra expenses such as this, so you can incorporate it into your budget.

Get a Jump-Start on Your Marketing

The ability to get a head start on marketing to the show’s audience may increase your re­turn on investment, and could be another factor in selecting one venue over another. Find out if the conference organizers will provide you with the contact information of those who have pre-registered to use for your pre-show marketing efforts. (We will cover the details of pre- and post-show marketing in the next article.)

Most likely, the conference organizers will ask you to provide camera-ready artwork of your logo and a brief description of what your firm does. Because the descriptions are short, people tend to give them short shrift and are then surprised when they don’t like what they see in print. Take some time to succinctly describe your firm in a compelling manner.

Exhibits Done Right … The First Time

Developing a booth may seem daunting and does require an investment of time and money. Fortunately, most of it needs to be done only once, and when you have it in hand, you are prepared for many shows to come. The first exhibit is the most challeng­ing and most expensive because of the investment in the foundational materials, such as a booth, banners and materials. Here are the basics:

Booth. A booth does not need to be an elaborate affair. Start with something simple and build from there. Today, with the availability of portable booth components, banners and stands, you can have a beauti­ful background without breaking the bank. Even one simple banner is a good start and can dress up a booth. The beauty is that a well-designed exhibit is modular; you can use the components individually or in various combinations at different shows. Components are also lightweight and come with convenient carrying cases. In order to protect your materials during transport, make sure to spring for hardcover cases, not just the soft cases that are provided free of charge.

Banners. Resist the temptation to fill your banners with a lot of copy. If you walk around an exhibit hall and are alert to what grabs your attention, you’ll find it’s the banners or graphics with one eye-catching image, not those that are cluttered and un­readable from a distance. If you have one banner that lists your areas of expertise, for example, consider a coordinating banner with just an eye-catching graphic.

Materials.  Focus on displaying and distrib­uting material that is informative rather than promotional.  Article reprints are ideal for display. If your attorneys have published relevant materials, consider obtaining re­prints, if you haven’t already. If no published articles are available, develop your own value-added pieces under a firm masthead that coordinates with your look and logo. Brief articles such as “10 Things You Need to Know About X,” “10 Steps to Protect Your Trademark,” or “10 Tips for Negotiating a Lease” provide useful, memorable informa­tion for visitors and can also be pitched as articles down the road.

Additional displays depend on your practice area. For instance, if you’re touting new me­dia expertise, you may want to feature high-tech visuals on a laptop or hand out USB drives with information that markets your expertise.

Invest in some acrylic brochure racks to add some dimension to your table. Things that are laid out flat are less likely to attract visitors.

Giveaways. What would an exhibit be with­out giveaways, aka “advertising premiums?” Pens, notepads and key chains can be pro­cured relatively inexpensively in quantity and are always popular items. If you work with an advertising premium house, your consultant can give you some good ideas for innovative items based on your budget.

Don’t forget to put out colorful candy or other fun food items which are individually wrapped. It’s amazing what kind of attraction this can have in getting people to come over to your booth.

Get Off to a Good Start

Many firms don’t get started in the rewarding field of exhibiting because the initial planning and launch require the biggest effort and investment. However, if you select your venue carefully the first time, your return on investment may pay for your next exhibit and more. And, if you are thoughtful in developing your booth and materials, they will serve you well for many shows to follow. The next article will cover staffing your booth, and pre- and post-show marketing, the final compo­nents of a successful exhibit marketing strategy.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at berman@berbay.com.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.

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