Conquering First Time Exhibitor Nerves Begins With Planning

Trade show exhibitors under a tent wearing blue and red custom t-shirt with their company logo.

Exhibiting at your first trade show can be a nerve wracking experience. At Entripy, we often receive calls from small businesses looking for custom apparel and promotional swag to represent their new company at their very first trade show. For many, it’s the first time they will pitch their business to many new prospects at once.

Exhibiting at a trade show and competing for attention amongst dozens or even hundreds of other vendors can be a daunting task for anyone, but especially for a new business. We reached out to Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking and CEO of Only Connect Consulting Inc. for some helpful tips on calming your exhibitor nerves so you can have a successful trade show.

Arrive Earlier Than You Want To

“Generally in trade shows there’s going to be something that’s not quite right when you get there,” says Zack.

Event planning company at a tradeshow wearing custom sweatshirts with their custom logo.

By arriving early, you can easily take care of these last-minute issues rather than frantically trying to get everything ready while trying to prepare yourself to talk to prospects and sell your business. Arriving early allows you the leisure of time to set up and still be able to take a few breaths and calm yourself down before the doors open.

Plan Your Wardrobe in Advance

Having a plan for what you’re going to wear means you’ll have one less thing to worry about the day of the event. Custom apparel that shows off your company logo not only brings your business the positive attention you want by making you look more professional, but gets people to take notice of your business before they even approach your display. When selecting appropriate custom apparel consider the type of event you’re attending. If it’s a more formal event where attendees will be wearing business suits, you may want to wear a custom polo like this performance pique polo with moisture wicking properties to take care of that nervous sweat or button-down shirt like the Coal Harbour Long Sleeve Easy Care Shirt. If it’s a more casual weekend trade show, perhaps a custom t-shirt like the popular Gildan Ultra Cotton T-shirt.

Label company wearing custom printed t-shirts with their custom design.

Focus on Building Relationships

The thought of meeting hundreds of new prospects can be overwhelming, but Zack says a lot of new exhibitors spend too much energy thinking they have to interact with hundreds of people, or they have to get their flyers or promotional material into the hands of 200 people. This can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, Zack recommends simply focusing on individuals and to think of networking at the trade show as building mutually beneficial relationships one person at a time. “If you leave a show and you’ve made three meaningful connections that will lead to future business or a lasting long term relationship, that’s more significant than collecting 200 cards,” says Zack.

Don’t Overestimate Your Memory

“We forget 50 percent of what we hear within 48 hours,” says Zack. Simply knowing that you might forget information can cause you to stress out during the show when you should be interacting with new potential prospects. When you collect a business card from someone, take a quick moment to write a note on their card about what you talked about so you can send a specific follow up. This also frees up your mind to spend your energy focusing on the next person in front of you rather than trying to remember what you spoke about with the previous person and taking mental notes to contact them later.