If you’ve ever manned an exhibit at a trade show, you’ll know that not every detail goes according to plan. Embarrassing typos, faulty equipment and mixed messages are some of the problems that can plague a trade show event and damage a company’s brand or reputation.

For those who are new to trade shows, here’s a checklist to help make the most of your trade show experience.

·         Choose a location carefully. The earlier you book space at the show, the greater your options for selecting a location that achieves maximum visibility. Booths located near the front entrance are obviously a preferred location because all visitors enter and leave through that point of entry. Booths at the ends of aisles also offer good visibility.

·         Know your audience/venue. Get to know the type of people who will be attending the show, as that will impact your talking points and messaging. Online forums and review sites can provide important feedback from people who have attended previous shows and help to identify trends, insights, opportunities, etc.

·         Devise a communications strategy. Meet with the team members to discuss how to communicate with prospects and how to collect their contact information. Consider non-booth activities to boost your trade show status; speaking, networking and hosting opportunities can enhance your visibility and increase your return on investment. All printed, digital and verbal communications should be aligned with verbal messaging. Remember that brevity is key, as you have only a few seconds to grab someone’s attention.

·         Marketing hand-outs. Think strategically about printed materials that are aimed at prospective customers. Don’t burden visitors with too many brochures, business cards or flyers. Sometimes branded marketing merchandise (such as key chains, USB sticks, and coffee mugs) can be effective. Make sure that all hand-outs and branded marketing items are professionally designed and produced.

·         Get your digital marketing house in order. If you plan on featuring digital content (product videos and photos, livestreaming), make sure that all equipment is working properly to avoid any glitches. Test your equipment before presenting it to the public. Tech support should only be a text message or a phone call away.

·         Keep mobile phone use to a minimum. If a someone sees you heavily engaged with your mobile device, he/she is less likely to initiate a conversation. One of the main purposes of manning an exhibit is to interact face-to-face with prospects, colleagues and customers.

·         Follow-up. Failure to follow up with leads is a neglected post-show task. Collect business cards and consider using either a digital scanner or a mobile app to capture data from attendees. Reach out to every person that you meet at the show within a day or two. Prompt follow-up tells prospects that you are organized and professional. Even one single contact could develop into long-lasting and mutually rewarding business relationship.

A little pre-show, at-show and post-show planning can go a long way towards ensuring that you achieve your marketing goals at your next trade show.