One of the most important steps to growing a business–whether you’re a new startup, or a longstanding company looking to expand–is networking through conferences and trade shows.

However, not everyone finds what they need at a trade show. In these kinds of situations, you get out of it what you put into it. Here are some tips to help you prepare effectively and make the most out of your trade show experience.

1: Keep the branding consistent

There are many materials you might bring to a trade show. From a stand-up poster or banner at your booth, to fliers or swag that people bring home with them, you want to be sure that you have consistent branding throughout. This might seem like an obvious tip, but it’s more difficult than you might think, especially for new companies who haven’t completely landed on a solid branding strategy. Furthermore, your branding is about more than just printed materials; it should be consistent across your website, in your social media presence, and in the personality that your reps at the booth convey. Anywhere that customers come in contact with or communicate with your company, branding should be consistent.

2: Have something useful to take home

Most trade booths will have something for patrons to take with them. It can range from a flier for an event to a carabiner featuring the company’s logo. Swag often feels like a good idea, but since you’re going to be in a place so saturated with freebies, you need to carefully consider what you have on offer. Consider whether it’s consistent with your branding, your company’s image and message, and whether it will actually add value for the people who visit your event space. And one more thing: weigh the benefits of investing in higher quality. For promising leads, the item that they take home with them will communicate a message about how you are as a company. A cheap tchotchke will make you look cheap too.

3: Visit other booths too

You’re not just there to get foot traffic to you; often, the most useful connections you make at a trade show will be with other businesses, even if you’re not a B2B company. Consider cross-promotional opportunities, mutually beneficial partnerships, and referral relationships. Take a stroll and explore what others are offering at the show as well. Chances are, those will be some of the best conversations you have all day.

4: Feature opportunities for interaction

Many customers will need more of a reason to stop and talk than a flashy poster and a simple smile. Brainstorm activities that will draw foot traffic and stop passers-by. Provide comfortable seating, offer simple games with easy prizes, challenge customers to a puzzle or riddle, or even have a shopping section for people to browse. Just make sure that it makes sense with your company’s products and services.

4 Tips for Making the Most of Trade Show Opportunities

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