Everyone is familiar with the tried-and-true trade show booth. A couple of large graphic displays and some candy with a company’s logo on them is a surefire way to ensure no one remembers the company represented by these old hat ideas. Companies that find themselves in a trade show rut can experience upticks in both booth traffic and follow-ups by following these new trade show rules.

Befriend the Vendors

Vendors are the food folks who are the magicians behind every trade show. They are responsible for leasing booth space, renting furniture, arranging shipping and receiving details, providing branded giveaways and more. Most marketing managers call them once a year to make arrangements for a national conference or two. Vendors, however, work yearlong and are usually among the first people to hear about new trends, gauge the success of past shows and figure out where the best locations in certain conference halls are located. Keeping in touch with vendors year-round can improve a marketing team’s chances at staying on the cutting edge. Things to ask a vendor include:

  • Has this conference hall been sued for this particular trade show before?
  • What are the most popular items that companies purchase for this show?
  • Are there partner-vendor discounts for purchasing from one parent company?

Make Everyone a Winner

Many trade show presenters rely on forgettable low-cost giveaways such as pens and candy and then spend a bulk of their budget on one high-cost item. The high-cost item is usually given away as a raffle prize; attendees are required to provide their business card to enter the drawing. Attendees are loath to do this, fearing that their contact information is stored in a database that makes them a target for mass-mailing and cold-calling forever. Revolutionize the way people see giveaways by making everyone a winner.

Choose a medium-cost, practical item such as a branded pedometer or wireless accessory that will keep the company’s name top-of-mind. Attendees will no longer feel the pressure of giving up privacy and will be more receptive to sales pitches or even casual contact. Need more ideas for medium-cost giveaways? Try these ideas:

  • Call manufacturers that produce bulk items. They are usually happy to provide samples of personalized (branded) products and offer a sliding scale for large quantities. Additionally, they can frequently ship directly to the conference site.
  • Shop online year-round for sales on products that are frequently upgraded, such as mp3 players, Bluetooth headsets and other small electronics. These items are highly popular with trade show attendees and are usually inexpensive when purchased in bulk.
  • Save any giveaway overages from prior trade shows and bundle them together in decorative gift baskets or bags. Use branded bags, ribbons or wrapping paper to ensure name recognition.

Take the Party Outside

Reserve a private dining room at a local restaurant or a room at a local attraction. Most people quickly scan the trade show hall for any remarkable giveaways and then retire to their hotel rooms early in the day. Grasp this opportunity for networking by offering an enticing off-site location. Provide complimentary cocktails and appetizers and use the opportunity for some one-on-one time with a potential client. Other ideas include:

  • Book a private tour and reception at an exclusive country club or golf course.
  • Rent a private room at a winery or brewpub, complete with a talk from a sponsored sommelier or brewmaster.
  • Host a performance by a local musician or well-known local chef.

Successful Trade Shows Break the Mold

Don’t be afraid to buck tradition when it comes to planning an upcoming trade show appearance. Try new tricks, such as non-traditional booth spaces and giving up gimmicky ways to get attendees’ contact information, to bring new traffic to the trade show floor.