Ask the experts

Dazzle your trade show audience

December 31, 2012 

Shop Talk spoke with David Zimmerman, president of Charlotte-based Southern Shows Inc., which produces a series of consumer shows in several cities, and Jay Pithwa, president of Tastebuds Popcorn, a gourmet snack company in Belmont, about making trade or consumer shows work for your business. Here are their edited comments.

Zimmerman: The main advantage to consumer and trade shows is exhibitors in specific industries have a captive audience. People are coming to a show because they’re interested in the theme, or the products.

Shows also are an interactive form of advertising – with attendees seeing, touching and asking questions about products. That means it’s important that prepared professionals are working the space. Attendees want to talk to an expert. “My decks are falling apart. What do I do?”

Presentation is key. With a 10-by-10 space, it takes people three seconds to walk by. They’ve got to understand what you do,with visuals, signs and graphics.

The biggest thing I see people miss in shows is not following up after it’s over. Hopefully they’re writing down leads. After the show, start making calls. If you’ve done a good job, you know who you’re going to call first.

Shows are really great for new companies. A lot of what you do is explaining who you are. You can create a great exhibit, and look just as good as the big guys. Small companies can really make a splash.

Pithwa: We’ve been trying to get in the bridal market ever since customers said our products would make good wedding favors. We have pastel shades, yellows, reds. It can be used in any kind of wedding you can think of.

We went to our first wedding expo to show these favors, but we got a lot of leads for other uses. People ordered for Christmas and corporate events, and we got several bookings and online orders.

We set up areas with jars and glass cylinders, highlighting the popcorn colors and flavors, showing how they would be great for baby showers or Bar Mitzvahs.

Everything was free. Our wedding favor was a small bag with three cups of popcorn, with twist ties and ribbons.

Expos take a lot of planning, and they can be really expensive. Cost can run from $250 to $2,000, depending on the length of the event. You want to do your homework, and make sure ten guys your size aren’t doing the same event.

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