While we are still absorbing all of the feedback and information we received over the two days exhibiting at Buildex Vancouver, there are some lessons we learned that may be of use not only in a tradeshow environment, but holds true for pretty much all aspects of business.
Arrive Early, Be Prepared - We started our preparation for the show months in advance, and still it came down to the wire. Our video for our display was being rendered out en route to the event, and there was approximately half an hour needed for set up, so when we arrived an hour ahead of time and discovered that we had actually more than an hour's worth of work to do for setup, that extra time meant we were able to set up and be prepared for when the doors opened. This is an important thing to keep in mind, especially since...
We now subscribe to the mentality that if someone is not in our hands at that moment, it is something that we cannot count on during the planning of anything. During the setup of the show, our video display got misplaced and we were forced to find alternate means of displaying our materials; since we had counted on the display, it set us back considerably. Now when planning for something, we always assume there will need to be contingencies and that we must be prepared to face them head on.
We got a little worried on the second day of the show; the floor was slow and we had brought a lot more tote bags to hand out in anticipation of a strong second day. The first day had opened strong and held that consistency all day. Once the afternoon hit though, the show floor got very busy. This could also be seen by individual table traffic; your booth can go for a bit without traffic, but then interest usually comes in multiples when it does.
We entered the show intending to show our Bid Intent initiative, since it was a tradeshow for the construction industry; we had not anticipated much interest in the web and design side of our business. Once we got there, we found that we were ending up talking about websites and design work for just under half of the time we were there. Because we had set up with some website related materials "just in case" we were able to make the transition fairly seamlessly.
While the show was generally very optimistic and the crowd was in an overall great mood, it still must be remember that just like everything else, we can't please everybody. One such example was to do with the tote bags we were handing out; we had strong, recycled, fairly large bags being handed out to all the attendees who wanted one, and all of the recipients were happy with them, except for one person. This gentleman had a look at them, turned to us in a mixture of disgust and genuine frustration and exclaimed to us that they were not useful because they were "too big" and simply walked off.
I was originally going to say "people like free things", but this isn't entirely the reason giving things away at a tradeshow is a good idea. People like to receive value for their time and in everything they receive. Sometimes this as complex as adding features to an already existing service to help add value to a product, and sometimes it is as simple as giving away a free tote bag during a conversation to add value to the "sales pitch" you are giving.