How to Prep For CES and Other Trade Shows – Part One

CES is coming up pretty soon: The annual Consumer Electronics Show takes place from Jan. 8 to 11 in Las Vegas. In general, it’s an international trade show where anything and everything technological and new is going to be on full display. It isn’t open to the public, and, no, I’m not going this year, but it’s a great reason to explore what small businesses can/should do to present at a trade show — be it CES or anything else.

“Making connections with other non-competing vendors has been one of the most rewarding aspects of these shows,” said Jonathan Carp, president of Miracle Noodle. “Other businesses genuinely are eager to help you out and give you ... ideas for how you can promote your product and tips on dealing with brokers."

So, yeah. What Carp says is a great primer for the mindset you should be in. Obviously you’ll want to be there in the flesh and have your very best and brightest on hand, but still bear in mind that you might not yield immediate results in terms of the money you spent on being there your very first time, Carp says. “It’s a quick learning experience. ... Just be prepared to be high energy and to make your points quickly with enthusiasm.”

Marketing materials help, of course. A good rule of thumb is to have a display stand for a 10’ x 10’ space — three advertisements helps. Also, be prepared for people to have next to no attention span. It’s a numbers game.

“The key to any trade show is to drive traffic to the booth,” said Sarah Boisvert, co-founder of Potomac Photonics, a company that has exhibited at many international trade shows since 1986. “In such big shows, that does not happen organically on the show floor.”

Advance marketing promotion is one way to make people aware of you and to come seek you out before anything even happens. You have about 15 seconds to catch anyone’s attention, and Boisvert says she has found that a black background booth with large video screens tends to catch attention because it will really stand out from all the many, many colors out there on the floor.

Stay tuned for more tips.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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