Making trade shows work for you | TravelResearchOnline


Making trade shows work for you

As a firm believer in the power of face-to-face marketing, I really like exhibiting at shows. I know it can be expensive and time-consuming, but I think it’s the best way to promote my “brand” (which, after all, is me).

To maximize my success at shows, and to make the most of the time and money invested, I have some guidelines that I’ve developed over the years:

  • Picking a show: I like to pick shows that attract the right demographic for my business (educated, upscale professionals) and where I will be the only travel agent. For this reason, I tend to stay away from bridal shows and women’s expos and instead choose “niche” shows like the Saltwater Sportfishing Show or the Fine Furnishings Show. They both attract consumers with significant disposable income (to be able to afford expensive habits like boats and hand-crafted artisan furniture), and I am always the only travel agent, which makes me stand out. The overall size of the show (expected attendance, number of exhibitors, etc.) does not matter as much to me – I’ll exhibit at very small events if they meet my criteria.  For example, I had a booth at a recent Holiday Bazaar at my old high school (a private girls’ school) because I knew the audience would be right, and there would not be any one else promoting travel.
  • Planning your booth display: While my booth display is fairly standardized, and always includes the same basic components (a tabletop display, banner, laptop slideshow, and brochures), I try to tailor it to each audience. For the fishing show, I made it very tropical, with a grass skirt around the table and a stuffed parrot peering over the laptop screen, and I talked about Costa Rica and Panama. For the furniture show, I used nicer (richer-looking) table linens, bottles of wine and an expensive silver dish full of high-end chocolates, and I talked about European river cruises. The content of the booth is focused on the agency, and the benefits of working with me, as opposed to any particular vendor. I do bring some vendor brochures, but I focus more on handing out my agency brochures and my business card.
  • Working the booth: Since I am the face of the agency, I pay careful attention to first impressions. I wear appropriate agency logo apparel (a baseball cap at the fishing show, a button-down shirt at the furniture show) and comfortable shoes, because I never sit at the booth. I stand near the front of the booth and smile and say “hello” to everyone who walks by. I think it’s important to be friendly and approachable.
  • Following up after the show: I try to capture contact information from everyone who visits my booth (easiest to do if you have a giveaway of some kind) and I get their permission to add them to my email database. Within one week after the show, I send an email thanking them for stopping by the booth, reminding them that they will now be receiving my monthly e-newsletter, and asking them to let me know if they have any travel plans with which I can assist. This way, they’ll remember who I am when they get that first issue of the newsletter, and not report me as SPAM! I also make follow-up phone calls to anyone who had spoken with me about specific questions – I provide additional information, and ask if I can help them with their vacation plans.

These guidelines work for me, but I’m interested in hearing what works for you. Please share your feedback with a comment below.

Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups.

  5 thoughts on “Making trade shows work for you

  1. Fazia MAck says:

    I’m a member of ASTA, NTA, ABA and CVB.

    As a vendor/Travel destination provider I’ve
    participated in several conventions, shows and expos over the past 8 years. Though I feel quite impressed by the article and some fun guidelines shared by you, I almost always find conversation starters left to the vendors. Most
    expereinced Tour operators and Travel agents
    have very little input and the least experienced
    ones are the ones who would have more to
    share, give and get. I wonder how you feel about that?

  2. John Frenaye says:

    I am not sure I am following you Fazia.

  3. Karen Payne says:

    The unsure to disclose information will be the agent not willing to put the effort into conversation starters. You have to be able to communicate with your clients. They love little travel tidbits and it is a good way to initiate the conversation.

  4. Raza Visram says:

    People normally pay to enter a travel show (at least a reputable one). You want to make their visit worth while. If you are tailor making a program, I would recommend putting together a special program designed to provide an excellent experience at a price that is particular to that show – a price that would be typically additionally reduced off your own negotiated rates available displayed on a brochure. The is a comparison to be made as well as taking points making it a win-win-win situation for all – the visitor, the agent and tour operator. Thank you for sharing.

    Raza Visram, Director

    AfricanMecca Safaris, Tours & Beach Vacations
    1275 Glenlivet Drive. Suite 100
    Allentown, PA 18106

  5. Ann:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and what works for you. It’ll certainly help me at my next trade show..

    Patti – Galavant Travel

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