Posts tagged trade shows

7 do’s and don’ts of trade show exhibiting: Tips for fundraisers

These guys are refreshingly straightforward about what they're offering.

Make it obvious what you're offering, like these guys.

This week I attended my very first ISES (International Special Events Society) luncheon in Portland. The topic was “Killer ROI: Best Practices to Grow Your Business Through Trade Show Exhibiting.” The panel consisted of Michael O’Loughlin, Vice President of Blue Ocean Events; Tracy Martin, Trade Show Manager for Bravo Publications & Trade Shows; and Todd Sears, VP Sales & Marketing at Skyline Displays of Oregon. Collectively, this panel had a bevy of advice on and experience participating in, consulting on, and organizing trade shows.

Although there are significant differences between the for-profit business industry and the nonprofit industry, I listened in hopes of gleaning helpful information that can be applied to fundraising (vs. sales). I’ve seen nonprofit booths at street fairs, community festivals, and music concerts – not exactly trade shows, but close. After all, isn’t the goal (or maybe it should be) of the organization in both circumstances to reach new individuals in order to educate them, understand their needs, and give them an opportunity to fulfill both their needs and those of your organization? Whether it’s switching phone carriers or making a charitable donation, we have to think about how best to engage with people to accomplish our goals. Here’s a few tips I learned:

  • DO advertise BEFORE the show (or festival, fair, etc.). The majority of attendees have decided ahead of time (before a trade show) what they are looking for and who they want to visit. So promote your attendance at the event before it begins – reach out to existing supporters and new ones you think might be interested. This could be as simple as an E-blast to let people know you’ll be making a physical appearance.
  • DO have a clear goal before you set up shop. Be as specific as possible about what you hope to accomplish. For example, say “I want to sign up 10 people to volunteer with our organization each day of the event,” not “I want to tell people about our mission.” The more measurable, the better you can evaluate your results.
  • DON’T give away a bunch of stuff. When you give away promotional items, you don’t necessarily attract the RIGHT people to your booth. You may just be wasting money and time on people who don’t care about what you do but just want a freebie.
  • DO take advantage of physicality. Engage the 5 senses. Do what direct mail and the Internet can’t. Get creative with it, but make it relevant to your organization.
  • At the same time, DON’T dilute your message with too much going on, visually or otherwise. Keep your booth’s banner straightforward: say who you are, and what you do, in a nutshell. Keep it simple.
  • DO have conversations. Avoid asking yes-or-no questions. Instead, ask what interests a visitor about your organization, what they like or don’t like about something, etc. Don’t ask “Do you have any questions? Would you like some information?” etc. You’re much more likely to get short, disengaged answers.
  • DO follow up on your leads within 7 days, if not 2. After 2 days, a person will have forgotten 88% of what you said to them.

Does anyone have any experience working a booth at a fair or festival for your nonprofit organization? How did it go? Was it worth it? I’d love to hear about your experience!


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