Let's talk about why you need to win.
The date is set. Your case is packed.
As you walk through the horde of vendors setting up their displays, your heart is thumping in your chest.
You're nervous, but on the outside you look like you know what you're doing—at least you hope you do.
You walk with confidence, nodding and smiling to vendors as you pass.
Then you see it.
Your bare, eight-foot table right at the end of a row.
People will be able to see your display from 3 angles. The figurative spot light will be bearing down on you for the next 6 hours.
What do you do?
How? Because you showed up with an arsenal of 4 ways to win at vendor events, prepared to maximize your time and money, and totally knowledgeable on what to expect from this very show that you're about to rock the hypothetical socks off of.
1. Win With the Details
Unless you're selling furniture, boats, cars, or some other large-type of product, ask yourself this question: What all do I need to bring with me?
Do you need that 6-by-8 sign and easel that reads "I need this sign to tell you what I'm doing at this show because I'm going to hide behind my table and hope people come over and put their names in the drawing because my sign is just so awesome that it speaks for my business"?
Okay, maybe that's a little rough, but you get what I'm saying, right?
You're the face of your business.
Dress yourself as you appeal best to your brand.
If your brand represents a very laid-back approach—and as long as it's appropriate with the show—then your comfortable Vionic® sandals and board shorts with a button-down shirt is a perfectly brand-appropriate correlation.
Stand out in front of your table or (space permitting) off to the side.
Unless it's an insanely busy show, I don't recommend holding entry forms and pens to hand to passersby.
(It comes off as either too aggressive or insecure.)
Would you approach the person who doesn't look like they actually want to work with you?
Just as mentioned in the maximizing your time and money post, you can't expect people to walk up to your booth and just sign up.
If you say nothing, you'll get nothing.
Skip the plastic.
Is your business cheap? If you're representing a bargain-type business, a plastic tablecloth may be a brand-aware choice.
But if you're anything else, get a real tablecloth.
Get something like one of these durable polyester table cloths on Amazon, even.
The best part is, you can wash and reuse them over and over.
Less waste. More visual appeal.
I recommend using at least 2 different shades (or colors if your brand calls for more a colorful setting.
For example, to best represent my business, I'd choose a black and an off-white tablecloth with the lovely sea blue accented on the table in another way) for depth with your setting.
One trip, two-hand display.
This is my motto.
(Especially if you're by yourself.)
If you're at an outdoor event or any event that doesn't provide a table, a second trip is likely necessary. Although, generally you're able to back your vehicle up to the booth site at outdoor events.
If you haven't tried it yet, you'll fall in love rolling cases or carts.
Pack the necessities first—heavier items at the bottom so any easily breakable items won't get squashed—and whatever doesn't fit in your case or flat-bottomed basket isn't needed.
A simple rolling utility cart (pictured) is cost-effective and perfectly suitable.
The 10-Minute Table.
When deciding what to bring, consider how long it'll take to set up your display.
The concept behind the 10-minute table is to be prepared with a simple display arrangement.
Reflecting back on maximizing your time and money at vendor events, it's important that you have time to spend meeting other vendors and exchanging business cards before the show, as well as trying not to miss any potential clients during.
I remember being at a bridal event, showing up thirty-minutes early, per usual, and as I came in there was a woman setting up her breathtaking masterpiece of a table. She was a caterer (I think...), and she went all-out.
I can remember it vividly.
Hanging crystal chandelier, two-tiered sterling silver appetizer trays with hundreds of appetizers delicately placed by hand—piece by piece.
Two faux-Colonial columns with artificial vines billowing from the tops.
Sounds amazing, right?
(And I remember this table from well over 6 years ago.)
But I also remember that she said she came in to set up 2 hours early to do this.
She missed the first 10 to 15 attendees because she was still setting up when the show had started.
Want to know what I don't remember?
Her name or her company name.
I remember that she wasn't able to network with other vendors because her albeit gorgeous booth took up every ounce of her time.
She missed numerous opportunities the event offered her, too.
Winning with the details starts with simplicity.
You want people to remember you and your business. Not necessarily that your table was so incredible... but your name was..?
2. Win With Your Layout
Let's do a walkthrough of a general table display that—with the right details—will give you a great exhibit to enhance your brand, message, and offer.
This example of a simple and effective table setup is a great start for your event. It's representing the possibility a six-to-eight-foot table can give you.
Here's the key:
Remember that flat-bottomed basket(s) mentioned in the last section?
Well this is where that will add a little dimension to your display. Not only does it provide extra storage and carrying capabilities, but if you turn the basket(s) over and place it opening-down at the back corner(s) of your table and drape your tablecloth over it to add depth and range for an "Ahh" factor.
Okay, remember when I got a little mean about the sign?
(I guess that was more directed at the full-size easel stand and large overkill-of-a-sign you may feel inclined to drag in. But I'm not editing that out, darnit.)
Anyways, this will be your offer.
It doesn't have to be in the back and centered, however, it does need to be on the table and should include your logo.
A simple example of how I would present my offer—a free content analysis—which remains on tone with my brand and briefly previews what utilizing the offer can lead to—more sales, more traffic, more subscribers, and more qualified leads.
It includes my logo, as well as my tagline above it. Simple.
(And it took me less than 20 minutes to create it from scratch.)
NOTE: I used "Enter to Win" as an enticement, yes. But I am also prepared to give [a free content analysis] to every entry. See what I mean? You may have no idea if you haven't read the last post, so be sure to catch up on that.
A vase, jar, box or canister of some kind that will hold the completed entry forms.
If you're using a clear container before anyone arrives I recommend loosely folding up a few blank entry forms and having them in the container already.
Generally people are more inclined to submit their contact info if they think other people have already.
TIP: A clear container is more inviting than an opaque one.
Go for clear. You can dress it up with a ribbon or colored stones in the bottom, too.
D—Brochure Holder (Optional).
Something to vertically hold a few brochures, catalogs or anything you're willing to hand out.
Make sure your business card is attached to each handout (if you intend to give them away, although that gets very expensive).
If the table is larger, spreading out the brochures or take-aways across the surface may be more appealing to the eye than too much "white space".
Try it and see.
E—Business Card Holder.
With business cards in it...Make sure to bring extra business cards and keep them hidden under the table until you need them.
F—Clipboards with Entry Slips and Pens.
Have you ever gone to a show and had to use your thigh, squeeze onto a corner of a table or use someone's back as a surface to write on? Not fun.
Make it easy to sign up for your offer.
Keep additional (quality) pens under your table and use brand and show-appropriate clipboards—meaning if it's a bridal event, those yucky cardboard-like clipboards aren't event-appropriate. Go for the plastic (black) ones.
Testers (stay away from fragranced items at shows. It would suck to cause someone's allergic reaction or asthma attack), samplers, or handle-able items.
Having something at your table that people can touch and feel makes your table more engaging.
Say you're promoting your new mobile app.
Having securable iPads or tablets available to play with the app would be highly beneficial.
Products or images of your service/what it is that you do, on the elevated section(s) of your table. These are items people will be less inclined to touch, but will enhance your display and brand image.
3. Win With Your Entry Forms
Something so basic yet is constantly abused or disregarded—entry forms.
You're attending a show and it's completely geared to you, as if nearly every booth is calling you over—tempting you to enter with all the incredible offerings.
You want to sign up for as many entries as possible before the event ends.
You get up to the first table and boy are you excited.
You pick up the full-sized clipboard and quickly look over the scroll of an entry form requiring so much information that you're now intimidated and overwhelmed.
There are way too many booths to see at this event to sit here taking "20 minutes" to fill out this one form.
So, you sneakily place the clipboard back on the table while the vendor is distracted with someone else and duck out—praying she doesn't say anything.
(Maybe next time you'll remember to make those convenient little contact information labels to stick on the forms and go.)
Keep your entry form so simple a 6-year-old could fill it out.
This example of what I feel is the perfect entry form can be broken down like this:
Leave space at the top so the clipboard clip doesn't cover your form content.
Include your logo in a high-quality format (such as PNG form).
Reiterate your offer. Whether you're offering a general discount, a winner-based offer, or something else, be sure to briefly state it again. Looking back at my mock-offer, I'd state "Get a Free Content Analysis. A $250 value. Free."
Name, Email Address, Phone Number. That's a given.
Method of Preferred Contact. By giving them an option, you'll have the best way to reach them pre-marked for you.
Mailing List. I've found that including the "add me to your mailing list" on the forms gauges their level of interest in your product, and secures higher conversion rates from shows. It allows more long-term value of the contact. Granted that you actually do something with your mailing list. But that's a subject for another post.
Peace of Mind. "No spamming. I (or we) respect your privacy." (And keep to it.)
Any additional information you want to gather about or from your entries needs to be asked verbally and written on the back of the form by you.
TIP: Briefly chat with each table visitor.
If you really liked someone, draw a quick star or asterisk on the back of the form and circle it.
It's "easier" to call when you know that was someone you liked. And you'll know to call them first, too. Try to put all entries into the drawing yourself so you can jot down little notes on them. (If there's time for that.)
Put an "X" on the back if someone who was rude, mean, or if you didn't like them.
Not to say you won't call them if it's a slim show, but at least you'll have an idea of what to expect ahead of time.
If you're in direct sales, your "X" can mean they said they already had a consultant.
Ask: "Do you have an active [your company] consultant?"
If they don't know what that means ask: "When was the last time your ordered or heard from your consultant?"
If it's been over a year, you can sleep-easy knowing it's okay to contact this person.
Otherwise, don't contact people with consultants.
Practice the golden rule even if your company doesn't directly promote it.
4. Win with Your Follow-Through
You can have the best display known to humankind, plus a winning personality and product, yet everything falls to pieces because the follow-through was too late—or God forbid, never took place.
Right now you might be thinking, hold up. Is she seriously telling me that people have done an entire show from booking, setup, meet after meet, tear-down, travel and all, and never call their entries???
Oh, I'm totally serious.
They figuratively flushed their hard-earned money and potential monies that show could've provided down the toilet. (And clearly wasted their time.)
Follow-through with your entries as soon as you get home.
You may have 150 or you may have 5, regardless, as soon as you get home, don't even think about unpacking or propping up your feet to relax after that hard day.
Greet your family, roommate, or your cat and get on your phone and book. Now. (If it was an evening event wait until the following morning after 10 o'clock in the morning.)
Past 24 hours, event leads start getting chilly.
After 72 hours, they're cold as ice.
Book them while they're still hot, fresh leads.
Then, once you've filled up your planner with all these bookings, it's time to follow-through with the other vendors.
If someone was interested in what you have to offer, go ahead and treat their interest as a potential booking.
But, as I'm sure you can imagine, people who regularly vend at events get "hit up" by other vendors all the time.
So instead of always "hitting up" other vendors as new customers or clients, why not start or encourage a networking group?
Take all those business cards you collected from the other vendors and look them up on Facebook or Twitter.
If you're interested in "Friending" them, do so.
Either way, you can create a Facebook Group titled after the show. For example, "Roundtree Bridal Event Vendor Network".
Invite the Event Organizer to the Facebook Group, as well.
You're now able to easily keep in touch with the other vendors, show-share, and stay on the radar as your company or industry's go-to vendor with the organizer.
Ready to win?
Details, layout, entry forms, and follow-through.
So get to it.
Book your show.
Get those contacts.
I know you can rock this like it's nobody's business.