Don't Blow the Show

Make the most of your first trade show by breezing past these 5 common blunders.
This story first appeared in the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Manning your business's trade-show booth for the first time is an exciting opportunity. But Linda Rodriguez, founder of My First Trade Show LLC, a Miami Beach, Florida, company that provides trade-show training to small businesses, says first-timers often make the following mistakes:

1. Not preparing for hidden costs: Trade-show newbies often don't know about required amenities like electricity, carpeting and so on for their booths. Make sure you know all the costs upfront-ask organizers what's provided and what companies have to procure themselves.

2. Spending too much money on the display: For your first trade show, says Rodriguez, buy conservatively. "Even if you have a very basic booth, you can make [up for it] with your booth staff," she says.

3. Improper preparation of booth staff: Everyone should be knowledgeable about the product or service and be able to answer questions-no relaxing with food or long cell phone conversations allowed. According to Rodriguez, "[It's about] focusing on the customers and engaging them."

4. Asking the wrong questions: Don't waste time asking passersby questions like: How are you doing? How's the show going? Instead, go for open-ended questions like: Why did you stop at my booth? What about the exhibit caught your eye? What are you looking for in a specific product? Take notes on lead cards.

5. Not setting goals ahead of time: Define exactly what you want to accomplish with this trade show-100 hot leads, five press appointments and so on. After, evaluate whether or not you hit those goals and what you can do better next time.

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