A Publication of WTVP

Each year the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors the largest downstate Illinois, business-to-business trade show. The Area Business Connection boasts a new one-day format March 24 at the Peoria Civic Center. With the Area Business Connection just around the corner, now is a great time to brush up on your trade show skills.

Some trade shows can be pretty predictable; people are milling around exchanging business cards and shaking hands, each exhibitor trying hard to outshine the rest. Both attendees and exhibitors need to try different and unique approaches to get the maximum benefit from their time investment.

For the exhibitor, a few important preliminary tasks are integral to running your booth smoothly. "Location, location, location" is still tried and true. Be sure to reserve your booth space as early as possible. But if you can’t get that perfect dream spot at the entrance, here are few ways to capture the attendees’ attention. Advertise that you’re exhibiting; even your best customers should want to come and see what you’re up to. Often, they make a great sales force, too. Make sure your booth is fun, lively, and unique. Better to be a little corny than expect the attendees to stop at a standard display and drag information out of a bored sales staff.

Once you have people stopping by, the atmosphere should be energetic and welcoming. A good way to create an inviting feeling is to not place a barrier, like a table draped in a cloth, between you and the prospective leads. Not only will this create a more open environment, but it may attract more attention merely because it’s something different. It’s also important to give the attendees something eye catching to look at, especially if they’re waiting to speak to someone. Graphics, video clips, samples, and promotional items help the attendees remember your story long after the show.

While working the show, set up shift times with regular breaks to keep your personnel fresh. It’s essential that each person has a chance to see other booths and get ideas.

One last hint for the exhibitor relates to your sales pitch. Remember that each visitor will be seeing many booths and soaking up a wealth of information. It’s important that your products and services are memorable. First, make the pitch simple and short. You want to create a lasting presence in their minds, and this may give your product or company an advantage over others who have too much information.

For the attendee, be prepared. The Area Business Connection has nearly 200 exhibitors, and you won’t want to miss a thing. Set up your strategy in advance and set goals for yourself. Exhibitor lists are available at the door, so you can quickly find the companies on your list. But don’t restrict yourself to just those. Keep your eyes open-the Area Business Connection is a great place to learn something new.

Attending a trade show can be hard work, too. Be sure to dress in appropriate business attire and comfortable shoes. And whether exhibiting or attending, be sure to bring plenty of business cards. IBI