This is the time of year that American marketeers call ‘silly season’. And little wonder; it’s the busiest time of year for trade shows. If you are exhibiting this spring, you will be up to your eyes in preparations for what can be, to some organisations, the marketing event of the year.

Here are my top tips for a successful show:

– Start a detailed list of all the deadlines for submitting information to the show organisers, ordering equipment and making decisions. Continually review the list and allocate tasks. It will be disastrous if you want to set up demo computers on your stand only to find when you arrive that no one has ordered the electrics.

– Work out what your promotion or theme is going to be as early as possible. If you plan to launch a new product or seduce a new market, a themed competition or a demonstration with a free gift will work wonders for attracting visitors to your stand. Decide what you are going to do as early as possible.

– Order what you need for your promotion. If you need particular equipment, or a specially designed giveaway, get onto it fast as the promotional company may be supplying multiple companies for the same event. Brilliant gifts for trade shows are things like pens, branded mints and coasters which don’t take up much storage space. A branded bag to hand out is a great way to advertise at the show. Hand one out to your prospects and they’ll use it to carry papers for the duration of the event, displaying your brand wherever they go.

– Email prospects and customers before the event. Tell them that if they pop by to visit your stand, they will be able to collect a free gift from you. This could be a t-shirt, cap or desk set, depending on how much love you want to lavish on your customers.

– Decide how you will record who visits the stand. This may mean swiping a barcode on a lanyard, collecting business cards in return for a competition entry or branded mug, or filling out lead forms. Don’t wait until the day to decide; you’ll need to train your staff in advance.

– Plan how to manage the data gathered and follow up leads from the show and remind sales people to allocate time to making follow up calls. MOST importantly, they will need to document the success or failure of these follow up phone calls – this will help you evaluate whether to rebook the show for next year.

– Decide who is attending and make a rota, nothing is less appealing on a trade show stand than the same weary faces, all fiddling about with their phones to pass time. Have a regular change of personnel so that no one gets bored of stand duty.

– Plan the dress code. Whatever you are going to wear, ensure all your team look the same. Some organisations decide on suits, but, with everyone in different colours, this can look messy. A better approach is to select some bright polo shirts, the same for everyone. This looks smart and any of your team wandering around the show will be advertising your brand. Include details of your promotion and your stand number on the back of the shirt to alert prospects around the hall about what’s going on at your stand.

– Comfortable shoes. This is vital. Never, ever consider wearing high heels or new shoes to a trade show. Your feet will thank you for packing footwear that doesn’t start to hurt after half an hour.

Good luck at your trade shows this year. If you’ve got more tips to add, we’d love to hear them!