Rent, don’t buy. This makes great sense especially if you only exhibit a few times a year. Rent iPads, computer kiosks, and other components. Not only does the trade show rental equipment save you money, but additional funds are saved because you incur no shipping costs. In addition, if any of the equipment requires maintenance or needs to be swapped out, the audio visual company is on location or a phone call away to assist you.
Lighten your load by going green. Forget about brochures, tchotchkes, and plastic bags. The only real thing your prospect is interested in is knowing what your business is and your business card. If you are going to spend money on something to entice them to give you their business card or information, have a super prize that they can’t resist (iPad 2 comes to mind). Create quizzes or trivia questions on touch panel kiosks. Have a photo kiosk at your booth where prospects can take photos of themselves. Make sure you let them know you are active on LinkedIn and would like to connect with them.
Order all services and equipment carefully. Make sure you have a booth budget and take the time to line item everything you spend money on. When renting audio visual equipment, negotiating hotel room nights, or understanding the convention services organization, treat them more like partners, not suppliers. Let them know you have a certain budget for various aspects of the show and share with them what it is. Get everything in writing and follow-up with questions. Typically, I go over budget because I haven’t worked out a firm plan with the client or it hasn’t been communicated effectively with the vendors. Follow the budget and review expenses every day when you are at the trade show, to catch any mistakes or misunderstandings.