Small Business

Exhibiting at Your First Trade Show: What to Take Along

Your home business has finally started to take off. In fact, things are going so well that you have the money to register as an exhibitor at an upcoming trade show. Since this is something you’ve never done before, it pays to have some idea of what to take along. Even when you are given only a small space for your exhibit, the right elements will make it attractive and increase the chances of making some new business contacts.

Panel Displays are Great

How much space are you alloted? Perhaps you will have room for one oblong folding table and a couple of chairs. The site hosting the trade show provides a backdrop of drapes and a small placard with the name of your business along the top.

While you don’t have much space, make the most of it. Consider centering the table directly in front of the drapes and flank it with the two chairs. This arrangement opens up your space and makes it possible to invite people to step out of the flow of traffic and talk for awhile.

On the table, consider using what is known as a table-top display. This is usually three panels that provide space for images that help to catch the eye and motivate people to step in your space. The nice thing about tabletop panels is they are easy to set up and won’t take up much space when not in use.


You need brochures that attendees can take with them. Consider investing in brochures that have slots for your business cards. These will slip easily in a pocket and increase the odds of being able to touch base with visitors in the days after the show.

Giveaway Items

Items that people can take with them are essential. Customized items with your company name and contact information is an inexpensive and simple way to spread the word about your business. Think about ordering plenty of promotional pens to give out, along with notepads and other things people use regularly. They will pay for themselves in terms of future business volume.

Hold a Contest

A time-honored way to make contacts is to hold some sort of drawing or contest. Take along a small fish bowl and allow people to enter by placing a business card in the bowl. For the prize, you could use something as simple as custom travel mugs filled with candy and a coupon for a discount on one of your goods or services. The business cards can be used as part of your follow up after the show and could pave the way for earning a new customer or two.

While it may be your first trade show, no one has to know that. Talk with a professional about the types of sales collateral, posters, and special items needed to make your exhibit stand out. You’ll find that the right combination leads to more discussions and many contacts that serve you well in the future.