When participating in a vendor show, there are a few things you want to consider.

1. Is participating in these types of events a good use of my time? Remember time is money, and if you are not reaching the correct target and gathering qualified leads, you are wasting your time. I suggest attending a few before you sign up. See what other types of businesses are participating. Is there much interaction between vendors and people walking around? Ask the vendors how they feel the event was for them.

2. Is there sufficient advertising being done about the event? Can you be added to the list of vendors they promote in the ads? What market does the ads reach? This is a crucial question, if the target market does not match yours you will be wasting your time. For example if you sell to the teen generation and all the ads reach the elderly generation, this would not be a good target for you.

3. What is the overall cost, not just the actual space. Is the electricity included, can you pay extra to get a prime spot? Don’t be afraid to ask for a written breakdown of all charges. This will help to make it clear exactly what you are getting and in the event you do not receive any of these items you can dispute the charges and receive a refund. Some additional questions to be on the look out for are, will you need to provide your own table, table cloth?

4. Things you need to ask yourself are, will you need to hire someone to help set up, take down and staff your space? What will your actual space look like? You will want to make your table attractive and colorful, you want it to catch peoples attention and draw them over to you. A good way to do this is to arrange information on different levels. You can use boxes to vary the height.  Will you have promotional items (giveaways) at your table? You need to factor in the cost of these to your initial investment. A good thing to remember is that you want to be remembered, offer something unique. I used to know a chiropractor who had spine key chains made up. You certainly remembered what he did.

When calculating cost of a vendor table there is more to it than just the registration fee. Look at everything you will be spending to determine that you will in fact not only recover the money you will be out, but compensation for your time.

One final thought is the key to a successful event is to interact with people. You can spend hundreds of dollars on your booth, advertising and still walk away with nothing if you fail to engage potential clients. For starters, be sure and stand in front of your table. The table can be a perceived barrier between you and your potential connection. Make eye contact with people as they near your table. Keep your phone in your pocket, if you are checking your phone people may keep walking. The perception is that you are too busy to talk to them. Take it a step further and get their information. Have a bowl with a sign asking for their business cards, a signup sheet for them to receive your monthly newsletter. Remember for every card you collect you will need to follow up with.

Remember with some simple preparation and research, you can make your next show a success.

Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle on January 17th, 2014.