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Best in Show

Tap the right resources to build a blue-ribbon trade-show booth.

Trade shows can be an important growth tool for both established and burgeoning businesses. These events offer a unique opportunity for you to meet potential customers face to face in a single location, launch new products and services, establish a presence in the marketplace, meet with suppliers and distributors, generate sales leads, and much more.

Ticket to Show
Some trade shows cater to very specific audiences, while others hit much larger markets. Before your first show, it's important to research different trade shows to find the ones that fit your business. Some places to start:

  • Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Formerly The Trade Show Bureau, CEIR uses data to highlight the importance of trade shows. If you're looking for reasons to put a booth together, this is where you'll find the stats.
  • Tradeshowbiz.com. This online trade-show directory lists everything from obscure shows to headline-grabbers, and is a great way to find out what's coming to your area and what's offered in your industry. An online subscription is $685 for unlimited access.
  • Trade Show Exhibitors Association. Where do people who put on trade shows meet? At a trade show, of course, and TSEA sponsors the leading conference about conferencing. As a voice of the industry, TSEA offers great resources, from publications to research contacts.
  • Trade Show Week. While this magazine is geared more toward trade-show organizers, it grants you an opportunity to peek behind the curtain to see what's next. The website also hosts a free trade-show directory.

Lift the Curtain
Once you've decided which trade show best fits your offering, you need to address the logistics. Many businesses can help you get ready-we've highlighted a couple.

  • ExhibitsGalore. ExhibitsGalore specializes in pop-up displays, portable displays, banner stands and accessories, and ambience items, such as flooring. It also allows you to upload your company logo and other images online to produce custom displays.
  • The Trade Group. From picking your booth layout to developing your marketing strategy, The Trade Group offers many solutions. In addition to ready-to-go displays, the company provides everything from lighting and audio presentation to booth design and materials.

It's Showtime
Once you've committed to a show, formulate a plan of attack. Know what you want to accomplish and how to execute it. To help you prepare, check out these resources:

  • How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows by Steve Miller (McGraw-Hill) offers expert advice from an international trade-show consultant. The third edition includes guidance on setting show objectives, selling on the floor, following up on leads and more.
  • Secrets of Running a Successful Trade Show Booth by Jim LeVine and Beth-Ann Kozlovich (www.tradeshowboothsuccess.com). This book tackles the nuances that make or break a successful trade show using 18 illustrative case studies. Topics include how to engage with prospects, how to behave in your booth, your pre-show checklist and more. If you don't want to commit to all the case studies, individual studies cost $4.97 each.
  • The Tradeshow Coach, Susan Friedmann. Friedmann works one-on-one with exhibitors, offering tele-classes, workshops and many books and tapes, including Meeting & Planning for Dummies. The website also in-cludes links to her helpful articles.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the March 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Best in Show.

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